BEIJING - China's leading Internet portal, Sina.com, has confirmed its plan to launch an English-language microblog service.
An English version of Sina's popular Weibo microblog service will debut this year and will be aimed at meeting the needs of overseas users, said Sina.com spokesman Liu Qi on Wednesday.
"Introducing an English microblog service is an important step in Sina's process of internationalization," said Song Jianwu, head of the School of Journalism and Media at the China University of Political Science and Law.
China's growing national strength means that it now has more say in the international arena, and Sina's efforts to expand internationally is part of China's growing voice, Song said.
Microblogs are playing an increasingly important role in the way people communicate in the modern age, serving as a social networking platform for common users, as well as a way for governments, companies and organizations to release important information in a timely manner.
"Sina's English microblog will be a chance for China to provide the world with a new platform for the expression of public opinions," Song said.
After launching its Weibo microblog service in 2009, Sina boasted over 140 million registered users by late April of this year, with 10 percent of its users living overseas.
Sina aims to increase its number of registered Weibo users to more than 200 million by the end of this year.
Sina's English microblog is believed to be an attempt to compete with Twitter, a popular microblog service founded in the United States in 2006. Twitter is available in nine languages and serves over 300 million registered users worldwide.
However, Liu Qi said Sina's English microblog service is not designed to target any certain market.
With its many distinctive characteristics, such as high interactivity and the ability to embed videos and pictures in microblog posts, Weibo has already developed itself to a certain level, Song said.
"For Sina, introducing an English microblog service is more of a self-improvement than a competitive edge," Song said, noting that domestic users with international backgrounds might appreciate the new service.
A total of 593,832 foreigners were living on the Chinese mainland by the end of 2010, according to data from the sixth national census, which was released by the National Bureau of Statistics in April.
Sina's English microblog service simply answers the country's call for more international exchanges, said Song.
Charles Chao, Sina's president and chief executive officer, has said previously that the company might seek overseas partnerships to develop its microblog services.
The company will invest heavily in its microblog services this year, spending about $100 million more than last year, Chao said.