CHINA - Twitter and Facebook are throwing a curve ball at China, where their core businesses are finding it difficult to penetrate.
Twitter, the world's largest micro-blogging platform by user numbers, has showed its interest in the massive Chinese developer population after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg visited Beijing, looking for potential business opportunities.
China's strong developer talent pool and advertising budget from going-global enterprises are apparently the big attractions for the US-based Internet companies.
Twitter, based in San Francisco, California, is hoping its latest developer tool can help the company reach out to talented Chinese mobile application developers.
"It's clear that China has a massive mobile economy, and this will help us grow there," Jeff Seibert, Twitter's director of mobile platforms, was cited as saying by Bloomberg News. "When we were building these tools, we knew they had to be global."
The developers' kit, named Fabric, is a free tool designed to help developers test apps, collect crash reports and run other mobile analytics.
Luo Lili, founder of South Korea-based technology incubator TriBeluga, said cultural differences are the biggest hurdle for Chinese app developers, especially when they go abroad.
"Good ideas alone will not make a developer successful. A powerful marketing and distribution supporting team is also critical for a startup to gather traction," Luo said. "Chinese developers need help, especially from platforms that have a global vision."
The micro-blogging service of Twitter is not available on the Chinese mainland after the government tightened controls over overseas social networking sites in 2009.
Facebook, Instagram and Google Inc have also been hampered in their efforts to reach out to more Chinese customers due to the local Internet regulations.
But the US companies remain intrigued by the Chinese Internet market.
"Facebook is already in China. We want to help Chinese companies find overseas customers," Zuckerberg said at a forum in Beijing.
The 30-year-old executive gave a 30-minute question-and-answer session in Mandarin, expressing willingness to forge closer ties with Chinese tech companies such as Xiaomi Corp, Lenovo Group Ltd and advertisers.
Earlier this year, the US company leased an office in downtown Beijing, and started selling ad slots to Chinese companies.
LiuGong Machinery Co Ltd is one of the advertisers on Facebook.
According to Peng Pingping, public relations assistant of the heavy machinery manufacturer based in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, LiuGong opened an official page to "communicate with global customers".
"We only update major company information and news related to our global operation on Facebook," Peng said. "It provides a more direct way to talk to overseas customers and we are able to acquire more customer information."
Twitter and Facebook have to compete with Chinese Internet giants for developer and advertiser resources though.
Baidu Inc and Tencent Holdings Ltd are busy building their own team of developers. In a developers' event in September, Baidu CEO Robin Li said the company's Cloud-based developers' platform will focus on artificial intelligence, image search and next-generation technology research.
Tencent is mulling a similar event to attract not only Chinese, but overseas app developers to work for its own ecosystem.
Data from industry research company Analysys International showed Baidu, Tencent and Qihoo 360 Technology Co Ltd controlled more than 85 per cent of the app download market in China.
Grabbing developers from the biggest platforms will be especially difficult for Twitter and other overseas firms because they only focus on Western app users. Only a few Chinese developers have experience making apps for non-Chinese users.