Is the World's Next Facebook Coming out of Russia or China?

Jacob Harper  |

Twitter’s (TWTR) success on the market since its IPO has gained a lot of attention in 2013, and other social media platforms Facebook Inc. (FB) , LinkedIn Corp (LNKD) and Google Inc. (GOOG) had a very repsectable year themselves. But what many people are forgetting is that there are more than four viable social media companies in the world, and several outside the US racking up massive amounts of users and revenues of their own.

As the digital age fully permeates the world, we thought we’d take a look at some social media companies from two major emerging markets, Russia and China. They’re all pretty much unknown in the States. But these companies are large, innovative, and as their incubating countries increase in global prominence, they could maybe even one day join the conversation dominated by American social media's "Big Four."


Alexa Rank: 19

Users: 195 million total; 43 million active

The brainchild of Pavel Durov, VK, formerly VKontakte (translation: In Contact) is the most popular social media service in Eastern Europe, and has started to gain traction in Israel as well. The brainchild of 28-year-old mogul Pavel Durov. VK has exploded in popularity since first going into beta in Sept. 2006.

Not afraid to stir the pot, Durov, dubbed “Russia’s Mark Zuckerberg,” has caused uproars by throwing thousands of dollars out a window to a frenzied mob and offering a job to controversial NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

VK is 40 percent owned by Russian internet firm is actively looking to funnel more capital into VK with money they made divesting from Facebook, suggesting they’re much higher on VK’s chances for continued success in that part of the world as opposed to its American counterpart.


Alexa Rank: 54

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Users: 148 million total; 38 million active

The second-most popular social network in Russia, Odnoklassniki is less Facebook-ish than VK, and more specifically aims to reconnect old friends. While helping former classmates and the like keep in touch might seem limited in scope, the site has proven exceedingly popular. Like VK, Odnoklassniki is popular throughout the Russian-speaking world, and is especially popular in Kyrgyzstan and Armenia.

Russian internet firm also controls Odnoklassniki outright.

Sina Weibo

Alexa Rank: 35

Users: 503 million

Often dubbed China’s Twitter or China’s Foursquare, Weibo is actually a bit of both American social media companies, with a little bit of Facebook thrown in for good measure.

Controlled by Sina Corporation (SINA) , Weibo has often served to be one of the few bastions of free speech in China, and is thus facing major crackdowns from the government. Users, however, are finding ways around government interference, as the virtual world becomes more and more difficult to censor.


Alexa Rank: 8

Users: 597 million; 150 million active

The most popular social networking site in China, Qzone is a blogging service that allows users to highly customize their experience, similar to early MySpace or Livejournal. Qzone monetizes by charging members for most services, including access via mobile.

In these ways, Qzone sort of harkens back to outdated ideals of how social media should operate. Regardless, the ploy is working, as Qzone retains massive popularity in the country.  

YY Inc. (YY)

Alexa Rank: 5,332

Users: 400 million; 70.5 million active

While the Chinese social media company YY is outpaced in Alexa Rbnk by others on this list, it is noteworthy for both its rapidly expanding growth and its innovation concerning what a social network can be. What started as a haven for hardcore gamers eventually morphed into one of the biggest, most innovative virtual spaces ever created.

An interesting aspect of YY’s monetization strategy is their embrace of virtual goods and services. YY users buy tickets to karaoke performances, and buy virtual roses to throw at admirers. The site also features a fiat currency called “notes,” and as virtual goods and notes comingle YY spurs an entire micro-economy that takes place entirely in their virtual world.  


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