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Taking note of BBS in Chinese Internet Culture

Amid all the noise over SNS and Web 2.0 fervor in China, it’s easy to forget the importance of BBS…

By Cynthia Yoo , in Blogs SNS 3.0: The Asian Invasion , on January 25, 2008

Amid all the noise over SNS and Web 2.0 fervor in China, it’s easy to forget the importance of BBS in Chinese Internet culture.

Gang Lu’s post on BBS (Bulletin Board System) has great points, well worth noting when considering SNS in China.

The key point is that Web 2.0/SNS companies should incorporate BBS applications into their platforms. Otherwise they’re missing an important piece of the Chinese Internet puzzle.

Lu cites high BBS numbers in China:

“In China, registered BBS users have reached 3 billion (one netizen might register in more than one BBS); 80% of Chinese sites are running their own BBS and the total daily page views are over 1.6 billion and 10 million posts are published every day.”

“In China around 36.3% users spend 1-3 hours on BBS, about 44.7% users spend 3-8 hours and even 15.1% users are on BBS for more than 8 hours a day. Over 60% of users will login at least 3 BBS more than 3 times each every week.” (from an iResearch Consulting Group report)

Lu spoke with Kevin Day, the CEO and founder of Comsenz Inc., owner of Discuz!, the first ever social platform in China. Discuz!

Kevin described the importance of BBS in China: “BBS provides a perfect and easy-to-setup show stage for everyone. BBS has evolved as a media platform, it is not the main stream media yet and might never be in China, but the latest and hottest news are always from various forums, spread and discussed by millions of users.”

Kevin went on to state that SNS will not overtake BBS in Chinese Internet culture: “BBS is a must-to-have application in SNS, at least in China. The features of BBS can help the social network users to exchange their ideas efficiently. On the other hand, SNS is a people-centric networking platform but BBS is a topic-centric platform.”

“SNS is to map the social relationship in real life into the cyber space, which in my opinion is one of the reasons people love Facebook. But BBS is there for users to follow the hottest topics and expand your social experience virtually. In BBS, people goes there because they are interests in the topics, and whom they communicate with are not really matter.”

One interesting point of the article is that BBS have been successful at building communities through encouraging offline activities: “64.5% users have been attended some offline events organized by BBS administrators or users.”

The Chinese experience reminds me of the Daum Café phenomenon in Korea. Daum Cafés were a hybrid of BBS and SNS. Over time, these cafés incorporated more SNS-functions and tools but they began as BBS cyber-cafés where members would meet online to discuss issues and share information.

Soon though, Daum café members organized “baungae” or “lightening” offline meet and greets. What first drew in the members were engaging and informative topics and issues, but it was the social glue created by both the online and offline conversations that cemented member-loyalty.

It goes to show that building community online is dependent on providing not only good content, but also that less-easily definable social-glue element.