Popular Chinese microblog by Sina to launch English version

The operator of one of the largest in China services Twitter, as it is developing an English version of its platform for microblogging.

The new English version of the popular microblogging Sina is still in development, and the company has no date when it will start, Sina spokesman, Liu Qi. “The service is to our customers abroad. Not that is designed for a specific market,” he said.

Sina Chinese microblogging service has now reached 140 million registered users. But about 10 percent of users are from foreign countries, Liu added.

Launching an English version of the Sina microblogging service, will allow the company to test the waters, both in the English speaking community in China and in certain overseas markets, said Mark Natkin, managing director of Beijing Marbridge Consulting.

“Sina and all major Chinese Internet companies are all interested to see if it can expand beyond the Chinese market,” he said. “China is a big market, a huge market. But it is only part of the global market.”

Currently, the country has 457 million web users, according to the China Internet Network Information Center.

Sina microblogging that was launched in August 2009, could soon rival the size of the Twitter service in the U.S.. Later this year, Sina microblogging service aims to break the mark of 200 million euros, equivalent to the current number of registered users on Twitter.

But while Twitter has users worldwide, the service has been blocked in China since 2009, after ethnic riots that occurred in the Xinjiang region of the country. The Chinese authorities have blocked other social media and networking sites like Facebook and YouTube, in an effort to curb the politically sensitive information.

Since Twitter has been blocked in China, microblogging has grown to become one of the most popular Internet services in the country. Sina rival Tencent operates a microblog Chinese with 160 million registered users, only a year after its launch. The microblogging, however, are heavily regulated by the Chinese government censors, which blocks searches on certain terms that are related to political protests.

Sina has already launched an English language interface of microblogging through an application for the iPhone, which also meant for users abroad. During a speech in April, Sina CEO Charles Chao said many foreign users of the product from Hong Kong, Taiwan and North America.

But Chao said the company first focused on building its service in China. Any expansion abroad is done through local partners, he added.