Over at Forbes’ Beijing Dispatch they are taking a look at what might be happening in the geo-location game in China. Don’t expect any of the names you are familiar with to be making any inroads into this huge market. If history is any barometer there will be plenty of foursquare and Groupon knock-offs vying for the title of the Chinese king of the location craze. The originators? Not so much.
As Facebook slowly sashays its way up to Foursquare’s check-in counter, let us not forget the original masters of copying Internet phenoms and making fortunes off of them. China has a proud history of copycat success stories, and in the coming years a few companies are going to profit handsomely from cloning Foursquare, Gowalla and Groupon: The question is, will it be a cute little startup or a behemoth Chinese platform coming later to the game as Facebook is doing?
That ‘proud history’ includes the likes of search engine Baidu and various YouTube knockoffs as well. China certainly takes the phrase “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’ to new heights and new dollar amounts,doesn’t it?
Apparently the Chinese competition is fast and furious because there is a lot of money at stake. After all, there are a lot of Chinese people who are always somewhere, right?
Right now the competition is on to be known as the Foursquare of China, or the Groupon of China, or both mashed up in one. There are many, many competitors for the location-based check-in-at-your-Starbucks prize and the group-buying ridiculous-phenomenon-with-sky-high-valuation prize. There are “dozens of Foursquare clones and literally hundreds of group purchasing sites,” report the folks at Startups Watch, who also produced this informative blog post on Groupon clones earlier this summer.
How this impacts the US market is really not even a story because it won’t. What will happen , however, is that one of these copycats will claim the top of the hill in China and will, in effect, close the market to the outside. If you are an analyst over at Facebook or some other geo-location player I would suspect it would be smart to target other areas before trying to go after China, which is more about politics than business in most cases.
Foursquare already has learned that it can be a tough go in China
It is worth noting that Foursquare itself is still blocked in China, ever since a lot of people tried to “check in” at Tiananmen Square on a particularly sensitive date in June. We can be sure the Foursquare and Groupon wannabes of China won’t be allowing such a thing.
So while the Internet is truly a global phenomenon it doesn’t mean that all markets are created equal. In fact, it is starting to show just how unequal most of the world is and will likely remain.