Twitter's Chinese competitor Weibo is growing fast and going international. With a new seven-story ad in Times Square, the company is bragging to Americans about reaching the 200-million-user milestone, a feat that took Twitter almost five years to accomplish. It took Weibo less than two. The meteoric growth shown in the ad campaign shows that Weibo is poised to go international and challenge Twitter on its own turf.
Owned by Sina, China's largest Internet portal, Weibo has two major advantages over Twitter: China's censorship laws and China's population. Twitter has been banned in China since 2009, the same year that Weibo was founded. Weibo, which translates as "microblogging" in Chinese, has been growing unchecked since then, and thanks to China's massive population, owning that market makes Weibo the world's second most popular microblogging service behind Twitter. Twitter users can access the site using a virtual private network (VPN), but analysts estimate that only amounts to 50,000 to 200,000 users. Meanwhile, Weibo is gobbling up a whopping 87 percent of the pageviews on microblogging sites in China. Weibo started marketing in Japan earlier this year, and Zacks Equity Research thinks the rapid growth will carry over "despite significant competition."