According to new Chinese regulations going into affect on March 16th, all weibo (microblog) users in China will be required to register their real identities to continue posting weibo messages. With the pace of new user signups already slowing, there are predictions that Sina and Tencent, the two major weibo services in China, will see a significant drop in the number of users once we reach the deadline and that this will severely limit what has become a relatively open platform for speech in China.
Weibo (微博) is the name for microblogging (tweeting) in China. While it is extremely difficult to find reliable data regarding Chinese weibo users, official reports estimate that there were 250M weibo users in China at the end of 2011. Comparing this to the 100M total users Twitter reported in September, 2011 puts this massive number into perspective. And from personal experience I can tell you that Chinese microblogging is at least as popular as Twitter in the US and, from what I can tell, that popularity isn’t waning.