Chinese Social Networks Charges Users if They Have Over 1,000 Friends – What?!

This is my second piece, in the “what?!” series.  In the “what?!” series, we try to discuss something really ridiculous about the China internet sector, something most foreigners will find totally bizarre, weird yet funny about China internet. (Note: the last piece is about: Chinese Gov’t Says Shanzhai is Also Innovation – What ?!

I recently found out that if you have more than 1,000 friends over Chinese leading social networks, such as Renren, Kaixin or QQ, you have to pay a fee.  For Renren, you have to upgrade to VIP services, paying RMB10 a month, to have 1,001 friends in your account.  Similar for Kaixin and QQ. Only Sina’s Microblog service (the Twitter of China) is exception to this rule.  

I double-check with a blogger friend of mine (a Chinese girl) and she said that is true and in fact she is paying for such a service, willingly.

First of all, it shows that Chinese internet users are really the most easy going consumer in the world!! No question ask, just pay.  No wonder, Tencent and all the game developers make tones of money.

Secondly, it shows sometimes Chinese internet companies have no clue what they are doing.  Facebook or Myspace will never ask their users to pay if they have a lot of friends.  As this is not making any sense!! As a social network operator, you will want your users to be as active as possible.  The more friends a user has, the more traffic you will get, and that help you to sell ads.  So, why limit your users’ friend network?!

I asked a friend who runs an online marketing firm in China, whether this will create a problem for them.  He said no, because they always pay Renren / Kaixin to setup marketing campaigns for their clients. (Maybe some kind of professional services.)  “Once you pay, you have a lot more options and can use a lot more features (e.g. do a poll) to help you to manage your marketing campaigns,” he said.

So, the rule is purely set up for individual users. Even my marketer friend thinks it is totally ridiculous.  Probably, Renren and Kaixin are under pressure to get some revenue to show to their investors.  So, they try everything possible.

That’s my view about it.  Any idea ??