Tencent, China’s huge instant messaging provider with 600 million users, is promising a challenge to Facebook by offering links to its QZone network to third party websites (including a Facebook-style ‘like’ button) and access to external applications.
Facebook has had things pretty much its own way in global social networks for a few years now, seeing off News Corporation’s MySpace and overtaking Google’s Orkut in Asia. With over 500m users worldwide it looked unstoppable but the Chinese market on its own is so huge that Tencent and QZone may well be capable of mounting a serious challenge outside China too.
Facebook is more or less banned in China as the communist authorities keep closing it down when some content displeases them.
Elsewhere in the ether Amazon has announced it is planning to roll out its product to other non English-speaking countries across the world, with all the hassle and expense that will bring. If its plans should include a Chinese offering that will bring it up against the mighty Tencent, headed by ambitious president Martin Lau Chi Ping, which is big in online shopping too.
But the world’s most successful online retailer can also see competition coming from the likes of Walmart which has been investing heavily in its website and overall online offer in what looks like a bid to expand globally via the internet rather than bricks and mortar supermarkets.
So there seems to be third stage of the internet revolution in the offing following the first phase of (mostly short-lived) start-ups and then the coming of a select bunch of big players (Amazon, ebay, Google, Facebook) which rapidly grabbed huge global shares.
Now big cash rich conventional companies seem to think that they too can use technology to grow rapidly and cheaply despite their rivals’ first mover advantage.