Chinese Twitter-like service looks to add other languages

The Sina microblog has recently come out with an English-language interface for its iPhone app

One of the biggest Twitter-like microblogs in China will likely add other languages besides Chinese to its service, starting with an English language interface for its iPhone app.

The microblog, launched by Chinese news portal operator Sina in August 2009, has already grown to more than 100 million users. That's about half the users of Twitter.

The company added earlier this month an English language interface to its iPhone app, although most of the posts on Sina's microblog use the Chinese language.

Sina's CEO Charles Chao however noted that there are  8 million users of the microblog that are from outside mainland China, in places like Hong Kong, Taiwan and North America.  The English interface will help users in other countries use the microblog service, he added.

"Hopefully this product will be well-received in other countries," he said while speaking at the Global Mobile Internet Conference in Beijing on Wednesday. "We will probably introduce other languages in the future."

Despite the microblog's growing presence outside China, Sina will continue to focus on building its service in China, Chao said. An expansion abroad will take time, and will be done through local partners, he added.

China currently has 457 million Web users, making it a major Internet market. Microblogging has emerged as one of the hottest Web services to hit the country, but Twitter is blocked in the country because of government censorship. Chinese authorities routinely block content deemed political sensitive.

Domestic companies like Sina are now fighting to become China's top microblogging service. Its competitors include Tencent, the operator of China's largest instant messaging service, and Baidu, the country's largest Internet search engine.

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Michael Kan

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