Ni Hao ! Whats your QQ address?

Although we hear a lot about the success and hype of MySpace, World of Warcraft and Second Life, by membership size they are dwarfed by some older communities on the web. What is the largest community on the web? QQ with 150 million members followed by MSN Messenger with 100 million definitely have the largest audiences in the world. MySpace with 68 million members deserves respect. However, Second Life musters probably only about 290,000 active members while World of Warcraft has about 5.5 million members worldwide in 2006.

From (source: Betsy Book, May 2006):

And let's not forget about semi-YOUNIVERSES, such as:

  • MySpace: 68 million members
  • MSN Spaces: 30+ million members
  • Cyworld: 17 million members in Korea (= 33% of population). In China, Cyworld acquired 1.3 million subscribers in only eight months.
  • Lunarstorm: 1.2+ million members in Sweden (= 10% of population)
  • Hyves: 1.6 million members in NL (=10% of population); 400,000+ members in Latin America (mainly Peru!)
  • MSN Messenger: 100+ million users
  • Yahoo! Messenger: 63+ million users
  • QQ Messenger: 150+ million users in China
  • AOL Messenger: 43 million users in the USA

One of the more interesting factoids that our operations people in Redmond tell me is that they can tell when China wakes up because server activity starts to peak as members begin to chat, transfer files and plays games on the MSN Messenger system. QQ the messaging platform of Tencent dominates the chat arena in China. As I stated in a previous post, many of the new users in China see QQ not as just a chat platform but as the Internet itself in much the same way that early users in the US felt that AOL met all their online needs way back when.

Tencent has leveraged their chat community to now be the dominant casual game platform in China as well as recently being the leading portal based on traffic. Other than a few banking and investment folks, few people outside China appreciate the size and "differentness" of the Chinese web. Now that Yahoo and eBay have essentially retreated in China as a minority shareholder to a local partner (with Amazon stillborn with their subsidiary), that really just leaves Google (and to some degree Windows Live) as one of the few large foreign Internet companies still left. Why is the Chinese market so different? My quick answer is because the user base in China is quite unique in this particular stage of development.  Yes, regulations and unfair practices by some local companies contribute to this situation but the largest factor may come from the arrogance and ignorance of foreign companies to try and understand the China user base better. Market Research does not necessarily equal insight in this case because the methods of data collection that works in developed countries may be less useful here in China.

 Neema and I wrote an internal paper on Chinese youth personas within MS but even then we are still only scratching the surface of understanding. For those within MS you can access the paper here. For those who are not, here is an earlier article I wrote 3 years before that is public.


" One caveat that I did add is that China and Chinese personas are quite under-researched at this time. Even the persona and scenario above is more detailed than some of the market research that I've seen on Chinese consumers. What are the implications of the one child policy to consumer needs in the next decade for China? How will a generation that has grown up on Internet Access and blackmarket IP feel about having to pay for IP in the future? As China becomes more urbanized, what kind of lifestyles and housing patterns will we see in these families in the next few years. Will education for the children of middle class Chinese be entrusted to the state or will private schools proliferate? Some scenarios are more plausible than others but sometimes getting the scenario correct is not the key, rather the process of collection, analysis and discussion is really where the real strength of scenarios lie.

All these are possible scenarios and persons waiting to be explored and researched in China. Frankly, most of the Personas and Scenarios that I have seen are for North America Europe only with scant and obsolete data pertaining to China."

-Frank Yu