Sina, which owns Weibo, China’s most popular microblogging platform (with more than 140 million users) is fast learning how to engage a massive audience. Next up is how to exploit it commercially. Plans announced last week to launch a virtual currency mark the first push to monetise Sina’s online platform.
Similar to Facebook Credits, Weibo’s currency – called Weibi – can be used for online payments to buy online goods and services on Weibo, as well as applications (like games) that run on its platform. Other Chinese internet giants like Tencent, Sohu and NetEase already have their own virtual currencies.
Sina says that Weibi will be exchanged 1 for 1 with the Chinese yuan. The first batch of applications to use Weibi will mostly be online games but there will also be an e-commerce app, says tech blog Technode.com.
“Weibi is in the development stage now, but it will be launched very soon in the third quarter to a small portion of users before a full rollout later in the year,” a Sina insider told Reuters.
Not everyone is hopeful that Weibi will make money. “Sina Weibo has accumulated a large number of game users on its platform and the introduction of Weibi can facilitate payments to different game developers,” Yu Yi, analyst at consultancy Analysys International, told the Global Times. “But whether it can generate profits will depend on user willingness to pay.”
To encourage take-up of the currency, Sina will not charge application developers for the first year in which Weibi payment is integrated into their products.
In future, developers accepting Weibi will probably have to pay back a share of revenue, when they convert it back to yuan.
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