With Twitter blocked, Chinese Micro-blogging Thrives

China’s 420-million web users have seized on micro-blogging as a new avenue for mass expression in a tightly-controlled information landscape….

Last year … China’s censors added Twitter to their list of blocked foreign services amid government accusations that social media were used to fan deadly ethnic unrest in northwestern China in July 2009.

But several Chinese clones soon sprung up, offering users a platform for sending 140-character messages via provider websites or mobile phones — while exercising heavy self-censorship to keep authorities happy….

From almost nothing last year, there are an estimated tens of millions of micro-blogging, or ‘weibo’, accounts in China…. A recent poll found that about 90 percent of under-40s use a “weibo” service … The DCCI predicts active user accounts will exceed 400 million within three years as China’s online population grows…

Users say China’s half-dozen providers offer services that are superior to those of Twitter, such as embedding of videos and photos. They add that more can be expressed in 140 of the Chinese language’s pictographic characters than in English….

The real impact of ‘weibo’ could lie in its ability to knit together — through the rapid, mass sharing of links — the countless Chinese blogs, forums and other websites that are the dominant outlet for public expression.

‘The density of information they have created, their frequency of dissemination and the degree of connectivity they have enabled for web users far surpass any previous form of Internet use,’ Hu Yong, an author of several books on the Chinese Internet, wrote in a recent opinion piece.