Virtual Roses and the Rise of YY.com
David Goldenberg at The New Yorker looks at a relatively recent social media phenomenon in China in which netizens perform live to thousands of viewers over the Internet on YY Music’s online platform.
Not long ago, thousands of people attended a seven-hour performance, aired over the Internet, by a young woman who wore glasses and a low-cut shirt that matched her purple hair. She called herself DanDan. From what appeared to be a bedroom, she had logged on to a Web site called YY.com, put on a pair of headphones, and scooted her desk chair close to a webcam and a huge microphone. According to a profile page, DanDan lived in Fuzhou, a Chinese city on the Min River, which meant she had stayed up from midnight to seven o’clock in the morning to sing karaoke and chat with the fans that watched throughout the night—two thousand five hundred of them. Whenever she sang karaoke to a requested song, or responded cheekily to a compliment about her appearance, viewers bought her digital roses and lollipops, which their avatars tossed, virtually, onto the stage.
DanDan is one of thousands of amateur singers who draw users to the music section of the fast-growing YY. Since it went public in November of 2012, the Chinese social network has seen its stock price nearly quadruple, from eleven dollars to forty-one. The growth has outpaced even that of Sina, which runs China’s popular social-media site Weibo (though Sina is worth considerably more, over all).
[…] Today, visitors to YY Music can choose from thousands of live performances taking place at any given moment. Each performer has his—or, more often, her—own theatre, in which fans’ avatars cluster in seats around the main stage. A live video feed of the performer rises from the middle. Users can chat with the performer and buy all sorts of virtual gifts for her; their avatars hurl the favors onto the stage. (The performer gets pretty much the same view, along with some administrative controls.) The performances can seem something like a combination of a pop concert and a peep show. [Source]