Bilbili: from an ACG Gathering Place to China’s YouTube

Bilibili – Source: StockLight. All rights reserved.

What is Bilibili?

“File:Bilibili logo 2.jpg” by Bilibili is licensed with CC BY-SA 4.0.

Bilibili is a video site from China, a cultural community and video platform for China’s young generation that is highly aggregated (Bilibili Investor Home, 2021a). In this platform, users are encouraged to upload and share their videos. Bilibili, as the platform, gives the creators some video promotion and financial support. This allows the creators to expand their reach better and then cash in on it in various ways. Bilibili is very friendly for viewers because there is no need to pay or watch ads to watch videos on the platform. Because of these advantages, Bilibili has quickly taken over the video creation market in China. In just a few years, it has expanded its reach from a niche audience of ACG fans to the entire youth population.

Historical Beginnings: For ACG Hobbyists

The story of Bilibili’s creation dates back to 2007. There was no mature video sharing site in the Chinese market, let alone a platform dedicated to the ACG community. At this time, a Chinese student created the first similar platform in China, AcFun (Wang, 2018), taking a page from the famous Japanese ACG video sharing site Nico Nico Douga. However, because of financial constraints and academic commitments, the site had many operational problems. At one point in July and August 2009, the site was down for a month due to a server room failure. So, to give many ACG fans a platform to communicate in this situation, an early core user of AcFan, Xu Yi, and his friends created an AcFan backup site, which is Bilibil (Yan, 2017). And as AcFan gradually went into chaos and Bilibili’s excellence in features and visual design, etc., it made many content creators and users flow to Bilibili.

After November 2014, Chen Rui became involved in the platform’s management as an angel investor in Bilibili and served as CEO and Chairman of the Board (Bilibili Investor Home, 2021b).

The Successful Turn: Becoming a Comprehensive Video Sharing Platform

The company has worked tirelessly to successfully list on NASDAQ in 2018 with its significant presence in China’s ACG sector. However, at this time, the copyright crisis among several video sites in the Chinese market and some misunderstandings of ACG culture in mainstream culture made Bilibili’s original living space limited to ACG culture continuously squeezed, and Bilibili urgently needed to find a new path (Wang, 2018). Fortunately, Bilibili was not a mere drama player from the beginning but a video-sharing platform with a strong community aspect. This has allowed the platform to grow with more than just the number of regular users, but also to cultivate a large number of content creators of high-quality videos.

Multi-categories of Bilibili by Bilibili inc.

Building on this, the successful online New Year’s Eve party held by Bilibili in 2019 allowed the platform to receive tremendous attention and truly come into the public eye (Bai, 2020). As a result, Bilibili has since firmly established itself as a diversified video sharing platform. The most successful of these is the construction of the knowledge section. Today, users on Bilibili can learn a huge amount of content from makeup to programming and more. The most successful part of Bilibili is that the content is uploaded by the video creators themselves and creates a friendly community atmosphere.

How does It Work?

Upon entering the Bilibili app, users will be presented with five main pages.

Home: This will show the content that the user is likely to be interested in, according to the algorithm.

Dynamic: This will show the latest videos and updates from content creators that users follow.

Creation Center: This screen allows users to upload their own content that they want to share.

Member purchase: Through this interface, users can purchase ACG peripheral products.

Personal space: Through this interface, users can view their profile and other information.

After entering the video playback interface, there are many interactive features on the Bilibili platform.

Many interactive features of Bilibili by Bilibili inc.

Because the Bilibili platform wants to promote high-quality videos, the amount of interaction for each video becomes an important basis for determining the number of videos pushed by the platform.

Bullet Chatting refers to comments or notes that float on a video at certain points in time.

This is an excellent feature for bringing users closer together and forming a stable community.

A Distinctive Business Model

The most important way to generate revenue for most video sites is by placing ads, especially before the video starts. But Bilibili is very different, as its CEO Chen Rui once promised, Bilibili will never have patch ads. And it is completely free for users to watch videos contributed by video creators. Only when users want to watch a series that Bilibili has bought the rights to, they are asked to apply for a “large membership” of 25 RMB per month. This is because although Bilibili has developed into a video sharing platform with a huge market share in China, it has remained true to its original mission of building a beautiful community for its users and a stage for creators. The theme of Bilibili’s main source of revenue as a video platform does not come from its video business. In Bilibili’s earnings report for the fourth quarter of 2020, the company’s revenue was composed of 33% from value-added services, 30% from games, and 19% from advertising and e-commerce (Bilibili Inc., 2020). The value-added services business mainly includes the live streaming business and the platform membership business.


Overall, Bilibili’s revenue sources are mainly from its emerging live streaming business, and gaming business. In the video business, Bilibili invests more than it generates. Both the incentive program for video creators and the various investments to promote the development of China’s animation industry has been extremely powerful in strengthening the sense of belonging to the platform for all types of users. This has given Bilibili a stronger community attribute compared to other video platforms. However, at the same time, the problem of limited channels for realizing the video business is something that Bilibili must pay attention to in its long-term development plan.


Significant Impact on the Development of the Digital Society

Humanistic Care Beyond Algorithms

With the development of computer technology, it can be said that algorithmic calculations determine the push model of information is very common. On YouTube, for example, tweets for each user can be said to be based entirely on computer algorithms (Cooper, 2021). This makes competition among creators more intense and makes it easier to create homogenized content. However, in Bilibili’s pushing algorithm, users still have a certain amount of say. On the platform’s home page, users are free to choose their own areas of interest. They can also give feedback when they are pushed content they don’t like. This feedback reduces the frequency of recommending content to the individual user and serves to optimize the overall pushing algorithm. This allows the user’s personal will to be better preserved, thus reducing the possibility of forming algorithmic biases and filtering bubbles.


Providing a Channel for the Public to Have Their Voices Heard

In the Chinese market, Bilibili can be said to be a very special presence. It is different from video sites such as Tencent Video, which mainly focus on movies, TV series and variety shows. It is also different from short video platforms such as TikTok. In the Bilibili platform, every ordinary user has a greater voice. Instead of watching videos produced and distributed by large companies, users can share their own content. Users can create videos of a few minutes or even a few minutes long to present their ideas in full, rather than just a dozen seconds of fragmented information. In addition, because of the strong community culture that exists on Bilibili, the comment section under videos and the bullet-chat

 during video playback have become important channels for people to express their opinions.


A Development of China’s ACG industry

As a video site that started from the vertical of ACG content, Bilibili has never changed its intention to promote the development of China’s ACG industry. In each period of Bilibili’s development, the company has introduced Japanese anime to the Chinese market while continuing to invest in many Chinese anime production companies and projects, creating much successful Chinese anime.

In terms of games, Bilibili has simultaneously promoted three major development directions: exclusively licensed games, self-developed games and jointly operated games, creating many successful game projects (Bilibili Investor Home, 2021c).

Reflections on the Review Restrictions

Bilibili’s solution to this problem is an example worth studying. Since its creation, Bilibili has chosen to use manual censorship to review all content. This means that all content that viewers can see on the platform has been viewed and approved by the platform’s staff. This ensures that there is no anti-social content on the platform that is inappropriate for distribution. But at the same time, there are many problems with this strict review system. For example, whether this makes the user’s voice partly restricted by the platform and manual review caused by slow and inconsistent review standards and other problems.


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