SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Sina Corp, China's largest Internet portal website, launched on Tuesday a two billion yuan ($301 million) fund for developers to create applications for its highly popular Twitter-like microblog, Weibo.
Weibo, which was launched about a year ago and has around 50 million users including celebrities and politicians, is growing at a rapid clip in China, the world's biggest Internet market by users.
Sina shares spiked this quarter on hopes that the firm will be able to monetize the service, which some analysts have described as a game changer for the firm.
The developers will use an open platform interface to create applications for the microblog, the firm said in a statement.
"An open platform has also been an important way for them to monetize," said Wallace Cheung an analyst with Credit Suisse.
"They are trying to get a pool of developers so it takes some time to accumulate (that)," Cheung said.
The fund is also supported by venture capital firms such as Sequoia Capital and IDG Capital and will encourage the development of applications for finance, entertainment and games.
China banned Twitter and Facebook last year after unrest in its politically sensitive regions of Tibet and Xinjiang.
Weibo, on the other hand, is carefully monitored and serves as the alternative to Twitter in the country.
Reporting by Melanie Lee; Editing by Jacqueline Wong