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.
The newest data from Tencent, China’s social media web giant, shows that its WeChat messaging app now has 468.1 million active users (MAUs) in Q3 2014. That’s up from 438 million MAUs in Q2. It represents quarterly growth of 6.8 percent – by far the lowest it has ever seen. WeChat’s growth is nearly half the rate that it saw from Q1 to Q2. Once again, Tencent did not indicate how many of WeChat’s active users are outside China. This is the app’s growth rate in terms of MAUs so far:
As Hong Kong’s Occupy Central protests continue to gather momentum and attention, Hong Kong’s denizens are sharing photos of the moment on social media. But apparently , photos of the protests posted to WeChat by Hong Kong-based users are being censored, and are not visible for WeChat users in mainland China. For example, Hong Kong-based blogger Cam MacMurchy shared the screenshots below with Tech in Asia. On the left is an image from Hong Kong he posted to WeChat on September 30th.
WeChat gets a v6.0 update today – only on iOS so far – that adds in two useful new features. But, as often happens with WeChat, one of these is restricted to its China-based users. The new WeChat feature open to everyone is Vine-like short videos called Sight. This is available in both personal messages and the more public WeChat Moments. In either case, you’re limited to a six-second video. If it’s sent as a message, it autoplays rather like a Vine video or a GIF. It looks like this:
The younger generation in Singapore and other Asia Pacific countries are adopting WeChat, a mobile social communication application for smartphones, in droves. According to GlobalWebIndex (GWI), a market research company specialising in online consumer behaviour, WeChat’s active user base has increased over 55% from Q2 2013 to Q2 2014 globally, with Singapore’s growth attributed at 60%.