Summary:

Russia’s big Mail.ru portal is trying to ape Chinese companies’ microblog boom by launching its own Twitter clone. Futubra launched in beta…

Futubra on Moscow's Red Square in russian
photo: Red Square: yeowatzup (Flickr)

Russia’s big Mail.ru portal is trying to ape Chinese companies’ microblog boom by launching its own Twitter clone. Futubra launched in beta Monday.

Alisher Usmanov, who owns almost a third of Mail.ru Group, also owns a majority of DST Global, which took a stake in Twitter itself with a 2011 investment.

Twitter has two million Russian-speaking users after translating its site to Russian last year, according to Yandex (via RIA). But the example of China, where microblogs – or, “weibo” – have exploded, shows indigenous services have gained more traction than foreigners.

Weibo use rose 296 percent to 249.9 million there through 2011, according to China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) data published today (via Reuters).

The growth is beginning to usher in a new era of greater transparency in society, as well as creating a huge new business opportunity for market-leading operator Sina (NSDQ: SINA) and Tencent, although China’s government has lately instructed operators to police messaging.

If Russian groups like Mail.ru can replicate their success, they could have a hit on their hands.

Russian president Dmitry Medvedev has already endorsed the original Twitter when he appeared at the company’s San Francisco HQ in 2010 to send his first tweet on an occasion Biz Stone called “one of the most special days in the history of Twitter” (via TechCrunch). Some citizens used Twitter to protest the re-election of prime minister Putin but their messages were purportedly swamped by a pro-Putin botnet.

Mail.ru Group CEO Dmitry Grishin (announcement): “We are excited by the opportunity facing Futubra as microblogging is a fast growing segment which fits well into the Mail.Ru Group vision of the growth in internet communications. The focus in the near term will be product development and the building of new online communities.”

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