Life after fame: Renren, once “China’s Facebook”, tries and tries again to remain relevant

Life after fame: Renren, once “China’s Facebook”, tries and tries again to remain relevant

August 19, 2013

by Ken Chester

Every so often I open up Gmail’s spam folder to see if anything important has been misdirected there. Typically, I find at least one notification email from Renren (NYSE:RENN), the faded-out ‘Facebook of China’, coming from another unknown URL among its apparent suite of domains. Last year, there were Renren notifications coming from xiaonei-inc.com (a defunct URL from its first name when it was a campus-oriented social network; but xiaonei.com still redirects to renren.com). Then, this April, I began receiving Renren notification emails from its Tongxueshuo domain, which hosts an under-publicized student-focused mobile messaging app.Just last week, I received another Renren notification email from rrimg.com, and then, from a similarly odd domain, xnpic.com. Although both initially appeared to be unused domains, I was able to dig up an assortment of image links – many pointing to live subdomains of rrimg.com and xnpic.com – via a web portal for Chinese in Canada. Goodneess knows what they’re for, but it points to Renren’s pivot away from its one social media site and towards its long-term goals with specialist social apps and smartphone games.

Diversifying the ailing social network?

Finally, over the weekend, I received a Renren notification from 5q.com, another redirect to renren.com, but then I also stumbled upon uume.com, which is a new site that’s home to a video sharing and filtering mobile app called GuangYingDV (pictured above), launched this past November. Interestingly, this app appears to have launched video effect filtering two months before US-based Vine, and eight months before Instagram Video. But Renren’s GuangYingDV doesn’t limit videos to just a few seconds, and instead is more like the social video apps of the past few years that have already tried and failed to capture people’s imagination. Still, it’s too bad Renren didn’t publicize this app more effectively – or launch it earlier – and offer an English-language interface. Just another unfortunate failure of a Chinese tech company to take the rest of the world seriously.

(See also: Check out the numbers on China’s top 10 social media sites – Infographic)

Try and try again

Regardless of this speculation regarding Renren’s mobile strategy, every time that it sends notifications from a new and unknown URL, I get to investigate an intriguing (and sometimes hidden) project, but I also have to set up new email filters to avoid sending Renren notifications to my spam folder. I can’t keep up with all of their domains, however, and although I rarely use their social network these days, this has still made me miss important messages, such as a friend’s recent wedding invitation.

So, what’s going on, Renren? Are you building out new mobile offerings on these domains to balance your ailing social network, which got left behind in the rush to Twitter-like Sina Weibo? And why was your video app so late? Needless to say, making me dig Renren notifications out of my – and others – spam folders is not the best way to introduce new products and services.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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