There’s been some talk that China’s answer to Twitter, Weibo, will be coming to the US in a matter of months. Weibo and Twitter both offer 140 characters as their maximum, but, interestingly, 140 characters in Chinese is not the same as 140 characters in the Roman alphabet that English and many other speakers use. In fact, you can fit in almost five times as much meaning on Weibo as you can on Twitter.
This was part of an experiment posted on Thomas Crampton‘s blog over a year ago, but the language math still works out.
Crampton examined tweets sent from Dell on Twitter and the Chinese-language Dell account on a Twitter-like service called Zuosa (not the same thing as Weibo, but the same idea). In 135 characters on Twitter, Dell was able to tweet the following:
“Today’s Deal: Get FREE Eco-Lite Sleeve with the purchase of any Dell Outlet Inspirion Mini 10 or 10v netbook! [Link]“
And on Zuosa, in just 114 Chinese characters, the Dell account was able to tweet the following (translated):
“Dell’s National Day Sale will run from Sept 11 to Oct 8. To celebrate the 60th anniversary w. the motherland, Dell Home Computers is offering 6 cool gifts & deals on 10 computer models. These exciting offers will run non-stop for 4 weeks. Also, get a free upgrade to color casing & a 512MB independent graphics card, as well as other service upgrades. All offers are on a first-come-first-serve basis. What R U waiting 4? Act now! [Link]“
So, 114 characters in Chinese is like 430 characters in English. And this means you can say a lot more on Zuosa or Weibo than you can on Twitter.
There are plenty of features that Weibo might compete with Twitter on: the number of active users, for instance. However, if Weibo were to follow the same model as Twitter when it launches in the US but expand the number of characters to more than 140, it might compete on the ability to include more meaning in each tweet (weibeet?) too.