New Chinese social media sites have long been inspired by popular sites and trends from the West, such as Facebook’s distant cousin Renren and Twitter’s brother Sina Weibo. It is no surprise then that they have embraced Pinterest with both arms.
Rather than just creating direct clones of the site, they have been inspired by the image-heavy, ‘waterfall-like’ layout (the Chinese describe the dynamic grid as ‘Pubuliu’, meaning ‘waterfall stream’), creating new sites that use this layout but add different features or use it in different ways to Pinterest. We’ve found over 30 Chinese Pinterest variants (and we reckon the number is growing); here are a selection of the most interesting ones.
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General interest sites
These sites closely emulate Pinterest , with users collecting, pinning and sharing images, video clips (Huaban) and gif files (Pinfun) of interest. However, the content is mainly related to Chinese culture, such as upcoming Chinese festivity, popular Chinese stars, food and scenery in China. Pinfun also has a link called ‘Pandora’, linking merchandise images to the online shopping website Taobao.
Meishixing allows users to share pictures of restaurant dishes they’ve eaten and liked, and ones that make them drool. Click on the images and the restaurant name and its Google Map location are displayed. Foodies can browse images according to cities in China; so far there are 38, and likely to increase. LSKong focuses on snacks, finger food, tea, wine and Chinese medicinal drinks. What makes LSKong different is its focus on each user’s profile page. Like Facebook’s profile timeline feature, user’s ID page displays pictures and comments on their snacks; this invites other nibblers to comment on your discoveries too.
Early in March 2012 Alibaba Group launched their social shopping website Faxian (meaning ‘Discovery’) beta version. Specifically targeted at female users, the site allows fashionistas to share and comment on items on virtual pin boards. By clicking on images it also allows users to purchase items on Taobao.
Mogujie (meaning ‘Mushroom Street’)
Finally, we should look at the growing success of Mogujie (meaning ‘Mushroom Street’), launched in 2010. The founder Chen Qi developed the concept of combining online shopping and web forums in 2008 by first experimenting with a cosmetics community website his wife was using. He discovered that users are often unsure of what to buy and which products are stylish, or suitable to them. Mogujie was already popular amongst females aged 18 to 25 (hence the site’s cutesy mushroom mascot), but when the site incorporated Pinterest’s visually attractive, image-heavy ‘waterfall’ layout, its number of daily visitors soared. Since last December there were 400,000 registered fashionistas, and 120,000 daily visitors.
Mogujie has a rigorous user registration process; not only do you have to register your name and date of birth, you can add details of your height, weight, skin condition, shoe size and vital statistics. Like LSKong’s focus on profile pages, popular users become models showing everyone what and how they dress (like the UK site What I Wore Today), and provide fashion guidance to her followers. There are pages dedicated to fashion brands, such as Topshop, Zara and H&M, and the items all link to the relevant pages on Taobao.
Mogujie is also not only about materialism. During the Chinese Valentine’s Day (the 7th day in July according to the lunar calendar), the site set up a forum for single ladies spilling out their singleton woes, which became hugely popular and only adds to the site’s financial success.
Chen Qi is quick to point out that apart from the ‘waterfall’ layout, Mogujie is different from Pinterest in content and community management style. It is still early stages to decide which of the few Chinese Pinterest variants are here to stay, but we know that to copy like for like will not be sustainable.