Alibaba tests new social media app, RealTechNode

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Chinese tech giant Alibaba has been testing a campus-based social networking app named Real since November, Chinese media reported on Tuesday.

Why is this important: The Real app is Alibaba’s latest social media breakthrough, historically the domain of its big rival Tencent and where the e-commerce giant has repeatedly failed to gain traction.

  • Alibaba launched a messaging service called Laiwang in 2013 to compete with WeChat. Although it has engaged in large-scale promotion both internally and externally, the app has failed to take hold.
  • Social media on college campuses has recently attracted big names. JD Finance began testing the Liwowo social networking app in early September, and Bytedance’s acquisition of Biu Campus grabbed headlines mid-month.

Details: Real, or “Ruwo” in Chinese, targets college students using the slogan “Real Life, Real You”. The app supports facial recognition for login and offers a variety of filters and stickers for editing photos and videos.

  • The new app was developed by the Laiwang team. Chen Hang, former product manager of Laiwang and now CEO of Dingtalk, is overseeing the project, Chinese media reported.
  • The application is currently being tested by users invited to the trial, mainly students attending several universities located in Hangzhou, the hometown of Alibaba.
  • An Alibaba spokeswoman did not immediately respond with comments when reached by TechNode on Wednesday.

The context: Although it has struggled with individual social media products, Alibaba has had some success in the corporate media segment.

  • Alibaba’s business efficiency app DingTalk said it had 200 million individual users and more than 10 million business users as of August.
  • In addition to stand-alone social apps, Alibaba is also trying to integrate social networking features into its e-commerce apps, including Taobao and Tmall.
  • Alibaba-backed payment tool Alipay has also struggled in its social networking efforts.

Emma Lee is a Shanghai-based technical writer covering startups and tech events in China and Asia in general. We are looking for stories related to technology and China. Contact her at [email protected] More by Emma Lee


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