Jack Ma’s comments on social shopping sites at an internal meeting earlier this year is no secret: Taobao wouldn’t like to see a small number of them to grow big enough to have a decisive impact on retailers’ sales. He’d like to see a short-grass prairie, rather than a forest with large trees.

Social shopping sites account for 21% of the total revenue cuts Taobao Union shared with third-party partners in 2012; mobile shopping apps earned half the total revenue shares, about 50 million yuan ($8mn), from Taobao Union’s mobile program.

U Zhan, a platform for social shopping sites launched in October, is one of Taobao’s responses. Working in the same way with Taobao, it allows for setting up shopping sharing sub-sites for. In short, it’s a grassland Taobao built by itself, within its realm. Not only would it be under control, but also they’d become competitors to outsiders.

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Tracey Xiang

Tracey Xiang is Beijing, China-based tech writer. Reach her at traceyxiang@gmail.com