Bilibili vs. Bilibili: The Culture Clash Dividing China’s YouTube

Once a niche community for anime and gaming fans, Bilibili is reinventing itself as a mainstream video platform for Gen Z. But its veteran users aren’t happy.

When Qin Yuzi was in high school in 2015, her happiest time of the week was when she’d binge-watch anime, gaming videos, and music mashups on video site Bilibili Sunday afternoons.

Despite being alone, Qin felt like she was part of a tight-knit group of friends on the platform. As she watched, witty and endearing comments from other users would glide across the screen — a function called danmu, or “bullet screen comments.”

“They were what attracted me to Bilibili the most,” the 22-year-old tells Sixth Tone. “Everyone commented using our own lingo and inside jokes.”

The niche website — which was then mostly dedicated to Anime, Comic, and Games (ACG) content — became a safe space for Qin. The native of Guangzhou in southern China made friends with 70 other ACG fans through Bilibili, with whom she’d chat and play games.

Today, however, the platform feels almost unrecognizable to her.

Since 2015, Bilibili has undergone a radical transition into a mainstream video site targeting China’s Generation Z as a whole, encouraging megastars like Dwayne Johnson to set up accounts and diversifying into a plethora of new areas — from e-commerce and livestreaming, to documentaries and movies.

The changes have brought the platform — which is now a Nasdaq-listed company — unprecedented success. Monthly users have soared from 15 million in 2015 to 170 million in 2020, while revenues have rocketed to $1 billion per annum, leading many to label the platform China’s answer to YouTube.

But Bilibili is also facing backlash from veteran users like Qin, who have decried the growing commercialization of the site and the dilution of its ACG identity. Most of all, they resent the influx of rowdy new users, whom they accuse of ruining their online haven with unkind and negative comments. Continue to read the full article here


– This article originally appeared on Sixth Tone.