Since the popularity of foursquare and MyTown, there are many entrepreneurs in China trying to provide location based services (LBS) in the country.   Despite all the hypes, LBS have  not yet found many fans in China.

A friend recently told me, Linxun (, one of the leading LBS in China has only 4 million users despite spending millions in promotion.  What’s more: most of the users are not even active.  There are only a few thousand daily visitors, or 1 in a thousand of its users is active each day.  It seems most people, who try the services, don’t like it very much.  Very few stay around and use it on a regular base.

“People check-in at a location and share their experience about it.  This has not caught up in China yet,” said my friend, “Most of the mobile internet users today are still the low-end ones.  To them, foursquare type of services is not very useful.”

Since it is still an early stage, we cannot say LBS is a total failure in China yet.  As smartphones get popular and more people from middle class using their mobile phones to get online, LBS should become more popular.

Maybe, the service need to be fine-tune and offer something that can grab everyone’s attention.  Almost every business model popular in the West can be popular in China.  But that is after considerable localisation – adapting the basic services to the particular situation in China.   Like Tencent did with ICQ, Baidu with Google, etc.  I believe the same with LBS.  Just move it to China is not good enough, you have to re-think about the whole processes – who are your users, why they need your services, how to reach them, how to keep them entertain and use it on a regular base.

By the way, there is another obstacle in developing LBS in China.  Because China Mobile switched their base stations address to dynamic-id, many of the LBS in China do not work right now.  If the LBS want to continue their operation, they have to pay China Mobile’s fee or think of something fast.

Author of Red Wired: China's Internet Revolution, the first book to completely survey the nature of China's internet. ( She previously was the lead China technology reporter...

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