China's largest social network to launch IPO in U.S.

The RenRen logo.

STEVE CHIOTAKIS: China's largest social networking site, RenRen, will be one of the first of its kind to go public here in the United States. Even beating Facebook to the American stock market.

From Shanghai, Marketplace's China Bureau Chief Rob Schmitz reports RenRen wants to raise more than half a billion dollars.


ROB SCHMITZ: There are several social networking sites in China just as popular as RenRen. But RenRen -- which means 'everyone' in Chinese -- is the first to launch an IPO. The site's founder more or less copied Facebook, added e-commerce and video games to it, and now RenRen has 117 million users.

The media are calling RenRen "the Facebook of China," and according to China-based tech consultant Michael Clendenin, that's the first mistake they'll make about Renren.

MICHAEL CLENDENIN: They'll soon find out that in about a couple of months afterward, there'll be another Facebook of China. And maybe a month after that, another Facebook of China. And they'll wake up and go: 'Wow, I didn't realize there were so many Facebooks in China!'

In fact, there's a Facebook for every demographic in China: RenRen targets young people. One competitor is after yuppies. Another attracts teenagers. So when will the real Facebook enter China? Not anytime soon, says Clendenin. Facebook would look attractive to Chinese users. It has something Chinese sites don't have: it allows users to share information with a global network of friends. And that's precisely the reason China's government has banned the site.

In Shanghai, I'm Rob Schmitz, for Marketplace.

About the author

Rob Schmitz is Marketplace’s China correspondent in Shanghai.

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