Popular Chinese Social Networking App Charts Its Own Way

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Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant, has already announced plans to hit back in China, with its own newly developed messaging app called Laiwang.

Tencent, meanwhile, is so confident in its messaging app that it promotes Weixin abroad, especially in Southeast Asia, where there are already tens of millions of users. The company is also planning a marketing blitz in Europe and Latin America, under the name WeChat. The company declined to say if or when it would promote the service in the United States.

Weixin could help change the overall perception of Chinese companies. Although Chinese internet companies are still seen as imitations of Google, Facebook, Twitter, and eBay, analysts say they are rapidly transforming into dynamic and innovative technology companies with unique business models.

Weixin, for example, is not a simple copy of an existing service but an amalgamation of various social media tools: partly Facebook, partly Instagram and even partly walkie-talkie. Rather than sending a short message to their cell phone typing in Chinese characters, which can take a long time, users simply hold down a button that records a voice message.

“Chinese internet companies are no longer behind schedule,” said William Bao Bean, a former technology analyst who is now managing director of venture capital firm SingTel Innov8. “Now in some areas they are leading the way. “

The disruptive powers of the service are unquestionable. Weixin has already slowed the growth of the popular Chinese microblogging service Sina Weibo and eroded the profitability of a service offered by major Chinese state-run telecommunications operators: the mobile phone short message service called SMS.


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