Tech In Asia — This post is all about WeChat, but it’s also about more than just WeChat. While seemingly just a messaging app, WeChat is actually more of a portal, a platform, and even a mobile operating system depending on how you look at it. Much has been written about WeChat in the context of messaging app trends, but few outside of China really understand how it works — and how it can pull off what for many companies (and countries) is still a far-off vision of a world managed entirely through our smartphones.
Microsoft launched its intelligent personal assistant “XiaoIce” on Tencent’s WeChat Thursday with plans for business use to compete with rivals like Apple’s Siri and Google Now. XiaoIce, a virtual personal assistant that Microsoft says was developed by its Beijing research team is accessible on Tencent’s instant messenger WeChat as Microsoft expands its offerings on mobile internet platforms.
THE music streaming world just got a whole lot more competitive, especially in Malaysia, with a new player joining the ranks of Spotify, Deezer and Raku in an already crowded marketplace. On June 26, Tencent Holdings Ltd introduced Joox, its online music streaming service. Tencent is also the owner and operator of the hugely popular WeChat instant messaging software.
TENCENT Holdings Ltd has introduced the Voiceprint feature for its WeChat app, allowing users to log into their accounts through voice recognition, and rolled out more features under its 6.2 update. The speech-activated feature provides users with a new, quick and secure way to access their accounts, the Shenzhen-based company said in a statement. Users can verbally read out a set of unique numbers, with an option of not going through the process of remembering a lengthy password.
The development of e-commerce on Tencent’s WeChat platform has led to questions about the fate of the social media app used by 500 million people, according to Guangzhou’s Time Weekly. Tencent began allowing commercial activities through WeChat’s “Moments” feature, which offers updates of a user’s online friends, beginning last year. The decision has led to thriving business activities that are plagued by counterfeits, fake products and fraud schemes, with one industry insider calling the development similar to that of Taobao, China’s most popular shopping site owned by e-commerce giant Alibaba.
The startup that runs Chinese messaging app WeChat’s movie ticket sales service has announced the completion of a US$105 million series B round of funding, according to QQ Tech. Investors include WeChat maker Tencent, real estate giant Wanda Group, Chinese film investment fund Wenzi Huasha, Shandong Luxin Investment Holdings Group, Shanghai Gangtai Group, and ECapital.
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.