China’s Twitter-like service Sina Weibo expands into English

China’s Twitter-like microblogging service Sina Weibo, which currently has over 400 million registered users, has rolled out a partial English-language interface that suggests it could be planning to expand into the US and other English-speaking markets soon.

There have been hints of this for some time. Eighteen months ago it was being reported that Sina was actively preparing to launch its microblogging in the “US market…[in] about 2-3 months”. Clearly that did not happen. This time around it looks like it might.

Now Tech in Asia is reporting that “countries in Southeast Asia [can] pick English or Chinese” when using Sina Weibo and while supposedly not open globally yet is already working in the US.

The frontpage, now with a simpler redesign, comes with an “English” option in the drop down menu. This changes some sections of the site into English although it does not convert the whole page from Chinese.

As Tech in Asia notes, a move to turn the whole site into English could be a boon for marketers looking to sell into the Chinese market.

“In November of 2011, Sina revealed that it had two million users in Hong Kong, though I suspect many of those are using the traditional Chinese text interface. If Sina Weibo converts its whole UI into English, it could help overseas brands do social marketing to Chinese consumers.

“Sina’s microblogging platform is having a very rough week with a large-scale revolt among Chinese netizens over heavy-handed censorship of an editorial at the usually quite outspoken magazine Southern Weekend. Much of that anger has been expressed via Sina Weibo, causing one of the moderators (i.e. censors) at Sina Weibo to make the highly unusual move of speaking out, pleading for understanding about how Weibo is a kind of “human flesh shield” between users and authorities,” reports Tech in Asia.

The news follows the story earlier this week that Brad Pitt had opened a Sina Weibo account and had posted a message hinting that he was coming to China — where he is supposedly banned from.

Pitt’s Weibo message read: “It is the truth. Yup, I’m coming”. According to reports it led to 31,000 reposts and 14,000 comments.

The star of ‘Moneyball’ was banned from entering China because of his role in the 1997 film ‘Seven Years In Tibet’ and its depiction of China’s harsh rule there.