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Life on WeChat

WeChat is China's version of Facebook, WhatsApp, Snapchat, and even Amazon all rolled up into one. What makes connected networking different in Asia? What can we learn about China and about the internet from the devoted users of WeChat?   More

E-Commerce Global Tech

Tencent’s WeChat Trounces Alibaba at Chinese New Year

I remember a time not long ago when we China tech reporters used to write annual stories about the number of people who sent billions of simple Lunar New Year text greetings over their mobile phones. Those days now seem like a distant memory, and new data from Tencent’s WeChat and Alibaba’s Alipay are showing just how small those earlier figures were, even though they seemed impressive at the time. But the real story in this new tide of “red envelope grabbing wars” is the huge victory for Tencent over Alibaba.   More

Global Tech

WeChat Comes Under Fire for Rumors, Fake Ads

Tencent’s WeChat has grown so quickly over the last two years that it was almost inevitable that the popular mobile messaging service would come under fire from China’s state-run media or Beijing regulators. The service briefly clashed with the telecoms regulator last year during a high-profile spat with leading telco China Mobile, and now WeChat is coming under fire from leading broadcaster CCTV for becoming a hotbed for rumor mongering and fraudulent advertisements.   More

Global Tech

How Tencent Uses WeChat to Target Alibaba

Alibaba founder Jack Ma’s worries about the rapid rise of mobile instant messaging service WeChat appear to be well founded, with word that Tencent’s wildly popular platform will create an exclusive shopping channel for Alibaba’s chief rival JD.com. This kind of deal must certainly be Ma’s biggest nightmare, as it will instantly link JD, China’s second largest e-commerce company, with the hundreds of millions of young Chinese who regularly use WeChat to communicate. What’s more, WeChat has shown itself quite capable of converting its users into shoppers who could easily become JD customers.   More

Global Tech

How WhatsApp Can Succeed in China

I haven’t written about Facebook in a while, mostly because the company hasn’t made any concrete moves into China lately despite previous assertions that it would like to enter the market. But the company’s purchase of the popular WhatsApp mobile messaging service for up to $19 billion looks like a good opportunity to revisit the topic, and what this deal might mean for Facebook in China. Facebook’s own site has been blocked in China since 2009, making it inaccessible to the vast majority of more than 600 million Chinese Web surfers. But WhatsApp is widely available, even though it competes with the wildly popular rival WeChat service from local Internet giant Tencent.   More

E-Commerce Global Tech

WeChat Wrings Money From Unicom, Wangfujing

Much has been written about the meteoric rise of Tencent’s WeChat mobile instant messaging service, with many drawing parallels to the equally rapid ascent of Sina’s Weibo microblogging service starting in 2010. But while Sina has struggled to wring money out of Weibo, Tencent is having much more success with WeChat, as evidenced by news of its latest commercial tie-ups with retailer Wangfujing Department Store and mobile carrier China Unicom. I have a lot of respect for Sina, which has emerged as a leading information provider in China since it first went public in 2000. But the company has shown itself less adept at earning money, unlike Tencent, which has proven much more skillful at milking cash from its innovative core social networking service (SNS) products.   More

Global Tech

Chinese Microblogging: Weibos May Be on the Wane

New data is highlighting an online trend that I wrote about last year, namely that microblogs have peaked in popularity and are starting to decline, in a bad sign for leading Web portal Sina as it rushes to monetize and list its popular Weibo service. Frankly speaking, I’m not too optimistic anymore about the prospects for Sina Weibo, which is really just a copy of U.S. social media pioneer Twitter and hasn’t shown much ability to innovate in the rapidly changing social networking space.   More

Business Global Tech

WeChat Faces U.S. Skeptics, Banking Friction

I’ve been traveling through Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Macau these last few days, so thought I’d end the week with a look at Tencent’s hugely popular WeChat mobile messaging service and the challenges it faces in its quest to go global and commercialize. I’ve been quite surprised by how widespread WeChat, known in Chinese as Weixin, has become in all three of these Chinese-speaking areas. But at the same time, comments from one of my industry friends also indicate Tencent could face an uphill battle winning acceptance in the US, where it could face heavy competition from rival products and skepticism due to its China connections. New media reports also indicate WeChat’s hyped new relationship with China Merchants Bank may also be running into problems, indicating the road to commercialization may not be as smooth as Tencent had hoped.   More

E-Commerce Global Tech

New Smartphone Moves From Alibaba, China Mobile

We’re seeing some interesting new moves in the smartphone space from e-commerce leader Alibaba and dominant carrier China Mobile, as each makes big new bets in the fast-evolving area. Alibaba is launching its mobile operating system on a new series of smartphones with several Chinese partners, following a similar aborted attempt last year. China Mobile, meanwhile, is planning a major overhaul for its popular but rapidly aging Fetion mobile messaging service, in an attempt to compete with newer, more popular third-party apps like Tencent’s WeChat.   More