Making good on its promises to expand Flickr into other languages, Yahoo said Friday that it plans to launch a Chinese language version of the photo-sharing service later this year.
The site will initially target Hong Kong users, according to reports, extending to Taiwan after that. It will reportedly offer the same set of features as the current English version.
“The [Hong Kong] traditional-Chinese interface of Flickr will be available later this year,” a Hong Kong-based Yahoo representative said.
A U.S.-based Flickr spokesperson would only say that “Flickr will be launching international versions later this year,” but she declined to comment further.
A Critical Market
Flickr allows users to edit, share, print and mail digital pictures. Its competitors include Shutterfly and Snapfish.
“They’ve been talking about this for a while,” Rob Enderle, president and principal analyst for the Enderle Group, told TechNewsWorld. “This showcases that they really do want to place Flickr as a world-class product. China is one of most important markets, and one of the fastest-growing.”
“I think Flickr is really ripe for international expansion,” agreed Greg Sterling, principal analyst with Sterling Market Intelligence.
“There will be issues relating to the cultural divide, but on the other hand, I think photo sharing can be translated more readily into other markets than some applications because it’s visual, and is all about photos and people. There’s a kind of universality to the platform,” he told TechNewsWorld.
A Local Partner
Yahoo also has Alibaba as its local partner in China already, so it’s not exactly a novice in the country. “They have somebody on the ground,” Sterling added, “and there are lots of people with cameras there.”
Indeed, photo-sharing may be an application that’s waiting to take off in China.
“Photo sharing hasn’t taken off in China yet, but it’s reasonable to assume it will be an attractive service,” Safa Rashtchy, senior research analyst with Piper Jaffray, told TechNewsWorld. “In general, sharing of content is picking up in China quite a bit, certainly with music and starting with some video. Given that more and more digital cameras and cell phones are available, it’s fertile ground.”
While there may be some small photo-sharing sites in the country already, Rashtchy said no major competitors come to mind.
Key challenges, Rashtchy added, will be monetization and also cultural differences that may result in Chinese users turning to photo-sharing for different reasons than Western users have. “In the United States, people have an interest in sharing their accomplishments and photos with others,” Rashtchy explained. “In China, that doesn’t immediately strike me as an unmet need.”
In fact, many services introduced in China end up taking their own, distinct evolutionary paths, Rashtchy explained, so that while they may still attain popularity, it may be for different reasons. Blogs, for instance, have become intertwined with news and gossip in China, and serve more of an entertainment purpose than they do in North America, he said.
So, it’s possible that photo-sharing may have to be intertwined with something else, maybe even blogs, to be successful in China, or they may focus more specifically on something like celebrity photos, Rashtchy suggested.
In short, “Like many things, a U.S. model doesn’t necessarily translate directly into China,” Rashtchy concluded. “Yahoo will have to be careful to match the service with the unmet needs of Chinese users.”