The following is my latest post on Digital East Asia.
Fanfou, China’s most popular Twitter clone from about a year ago, has been quiet for more than 6 months, ever since being shut down by the Chinese authorities. Its founder, Wang Xing, launched a new site today. The new discount shopping site,Meituan.com (link in Chinese) — beautiful group, in literal translation, but also a pun on the acronym of group purchase every day — could aptly be summarized as a Groupon.com clone.
[image courtesy of Digital East Asia]
The two websites look very similar in design (aside from the different background colors), which is not a surprise for a Chinese clone. There are similarities in features too. Meituan.com currently runs one product sale per city per day, and offers a heavy discount on the product in question. Since March 8 is Women’s Day, the product on offer in the above screenshot is a spa package.
The site lists 15 major cities in China, though only the Beijing site is actually in service. For information on the product being offered, the site pulls information from other websites – in the spa package’s example, reviews on the spa are scraped from Dianping.com (the Chinese-equivalent of Yelp, which is a very unfair statement since Dianping actually launched first).
With Meituan, Wang Xing is now officially a serial entrepreneur. He started the Chinese Facebook clone, Xiaonei (now branded Renren), in 2005 and sold it for $2M in 2006. He then started Fanfou in 2007. I’m not too sure on the prospects of Meituan, since e-commerce in China is dominated by Alibaba’s c2c platform Taobao.com. It’s not at all difficult for Taobao to emulate the features of Meituan (and leverage its user base and established best-in-class payment infrastructure Alipay), and indeed self-organized group purchase activities have long been present in Chinese forums.