For Forbes, Gady Epstein profiles Sina Weibo, the Chinese microblogging service:
Weibo, launched in August 2009, was the Internet phenomenon of China in 2010, reaching 50 million users by the end of October–and is likely fast approaching 100 million users now. (Twitter has more than 200 million users globally.) Chao, 45, and other top Sina executives invited movie stars, singers and famous business and media figures to join the platform. Some now have millions of followers. And with the help of Beijing, Sina Weibo had effective first-mover advantage: The chief competition, Fanfou, back up after the Tiananmen anniversary, had been taken offline indefinitely after the July 2009 riots in northwest China’s Xinjiang region; Twitter and Facebook, too, had been blocked and have remained so since then.
Filling this government-manufactured void was Chao’s government-trusted sandbox for cynics, celebrities, influential bloggers and media elites. It has become China’s most potent incubator for subversive Internet memes, much to the consternation of bungling local officials across the country. From a deadly fire in Shanghai to a fatal hit-and-run by the son of a police official (producing the catchphrase, “Sue me if you dare, my dad is Li Gang!”) to a recent online campaign to find and retrieve kidnapped child beggars, Weibo has forced authorities to reckon with popular opinion in a way unprecedented in Communist-ruled China.