China’s tech giants are working hard to make sure that consumers use their phones to pay for things. Today Alipay Wallet, the Alibaba-affiliated mobile wallet, announced it now enables Chinese users to fulfill municipal fees in 12 cities. Clicking on a new “City Services” tab inside Alipay Wallet draws up a menu with options to book hospital appointments, pay for parking tickets, settle gas and water bills, and even buy gasoline. Users can also look up information regarding traffic and public transportation, and manage other minor bureaucratic tasks.
WeChat, China’s most popular chat app, announced today it has begun testing out banner ads and promoted app installs on its “article view” pages. WeChat tends to attract the foreign tech industry’s attention for its growing number of services, like taxi booking and mobile payments. But it’s also a popular destination for news reading. Publishers will often push out content daily through their official accounts, using WeChat’s own publishing platform or a third-party one.
Messaging app WeChat now has 500 million monthly active users (MAUs), parent company Tencent revealed today. The new figure for Q4 2014 is up from 468 million in Q3 last year, and up from 355 million at the end of 2013. WeChat’s growth in active user numbers slowed down dramatically in the first three quarters of 2014, but it stabilized at 6.8 percent growth from Q3 to Q4 – the same rate as from Q2 to Q3.
WeChat, the most popular messaging app and social network in China with 468 million monthly active users, yesterday set in stone 10 rules for users posting to the app’s news feed, called Moments in English (h/t to 36kr for spotting). An article from the WeChat Security Center says the service will “resolutely crack down on all kinds of illegal content and behavior.
Over the past week, China has been going gaga over pollution. No, the skies aren’t any grayer than usual; the reason is Under the Dome, a documentary about pollution from popular CCTV journalist Chai Jing that hit the web and went viral. The film burned its way through WeChat and Weibo, racking up tens of millions of views in just 24 hours. Now, around a week later, it has already been watched more than 100 million times.
Bitcoin enthusiasts in China exchanged a total of RMB 10 million (US$1.6 million) in Chinese New Year gifts using the cryptocurrency, according to Beijing-based exchange OKCoin. This mostly happened through WeChat, the popular messaging app, as half a million people used OKCoin’s mobile wallet and WeChat account – called OKLink – to gift bitcoin to their buddies during the course of the week-long holiday.
Last night was Chinese New Year’s Eve. Amidst all the other festivities, China’s WeChat users sent each other an astonishing 1.01 billion red envelopes (pictured above), the social media company revealed this afternoon. The virtual red envelopes stuffed with actual cash, which mirror a long-held gift-giving tradition at Chinese New Year, are a growing trend in China as people make more use of online payment methods.
China’s state TV extravaganza for Chinese New Year’s Eve is getting a social media twist this year – and also a pile of cash. The gala entertainment show is giving away RMB 500 million (US$80 million) in cash to viewers via social media such as WeChat and Weibo. The TV show – which lasts for nearly five hours – will trigger the cash handouts, in the form of virtual versions of the traditional “red envelope” money-filled gifts, at three points during the broadcast.
WeChat, the popular messaging app, just stepped into fitness tracking. WeChat now has an option for people with fitness tracker devices or certain phones that can do motion tracking to share the number of steps they take each day and even compete with their friends. All this is done by adding an account inside the WeChat app called WeChat Sports (search for 微信运动 in Chinese). It’s made by Tencent, the company behind the messaging app.
As China’s massive Spring Festival holiday approaches, the folks at Tencent WeChat have been busy pressing the delete key on links between their app and a number of Alibaba services. First, Sina Tech reported that WeChat had shut down a sharing like with Alibaba’s Alipay that allowed Alipay users to send digital Spring Festival red envelopes of money to WeChat friends. Now, it appears WeChat has also shut down sharing connections with Alibaba music apps Xiami and Tiantian Dongting, meaning users can no longer share content from those apps directly with their WeChat friends.
Just a few days after testing ads in the WeChat timeline, Tencent has brought WeChat advertising live. Regular ads in the service began appearing in users’ timelines over the weekend, and among the first ones to pop up were advertisements for global brands BMW and Coca-Cola. Chinese smartphone maker Vivo also has ads on the service. It’s no surprise that global brands are interested in getting in on the ground floor of WeChat advertising. The service current boasts nearly 500 million active users, and it continues to grow.
WeChat is testing out adverts, according to numerous screenshots floating around the web today. The adverts are in the WeChat Moments section of the app, which is a bit like the Facebook timeline. The first ever ad inside WeChat Moments seems to be a test by Tencent itself. It shows a Moments post by WeChat’s own official account showing up labelled as a “promoted” post in random people’s timelines.
This time last year, popular messaging app WeChat launched an online personal investment fund for its users in China. It allows people to get better interest rates for their savings than from banks. Now WeChat’s maker, Tencent, has revealed that the wealth fund has 10 million users who’ve banked a total of RMB 100 billion, which is US$16.2 billion. That amounts to an average of US$1,610 for each user.
On the sidelines of CES in Las Vegas, Ceasars Entertainment partnered up with WeChat to give tours of new smart hotel rooms at The LINQ, a local hotel and casino. Visitors could use an app inside WeChat to control lighting, thermostats, and curtains. The connected suites will be the first of many such hotel rooms from Ceasars catering to overseas Chinese.
Tencent is China’s second-biggest internet company, recently stripped of its number one spot by Alibaba. It’s also one of the country’s most active venture capitalists. While Alibaba made headlines with massive investments into big established companies, Tencent got down and dirty with early stage investments into nascent startups.
Nearly five months after the initial tie-up in Singapore, today WeChat and EasyTaxi announced that its partnership is rolling out to Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Starting today, WeChat users in those three countries can flag a taxi inside the messaging app. People can do this by adding EasyTaxi’s official WeChat account inside the chat app (Malaysia: easytaximy; Thailand: EasyTaxiThailand; the Philippines: EasyTaxi_PH).
Whoops! WeChat is China’s most popular chat app by a country mile, but the folks behind China’s new WeChat Phonebook were left apologizing on Thursday after its Wednesday launch was marred by severe technical problems. WeChat Phonebook has garnered a lot of interest in China as a way to make your phone smarter and cheaper. The app offers free VOIP calling (as long as you’re on wifi) and a variety of convenient services like automatic contact list backup, syncing WeChat avatar images with your contact list, easy group texting, etc.