One of the interesting aspects of research for the book was finding out more about how social media is used outside the West. In particular, there is a huge, and mainly homegrown, Web 2.0 environment in China. Services such as QZone, RenRen and CyWorld dominate their home market and have hundreds of millions of users.
I was reminded of this a couple of days ago whilst reading about the Facebook IPO. The Guardian published an analysis by technology editor, Charles Arthur, which included the following quote from Ed Barton, a digital media specialist:
“Facebook depends on advertising, and I would highlight that the fastest-growing internet media markets are China and the Far East, India and Brazil. Facebook’s potential is nowhere near as strong in those as it has been in the US. And in those markets there are often a number of locally oriented social networks already in place.”
With billions in the bank from its IPO, the normal route to expansion for Facebook might be a major purchase in one of these emerging markets. But things are never that simple in one-party-state China. The IPO may have run into local difficulties in the last few days, but the battle for Chinese users is a longer term strategic challenge for the company.