WeChat

WeChat logo

WeChat (also known as Weixin) is a Chinese multi-purpose messaging, social media, and mobile payment app developed by Tencent. WeChat provides text messaging, hold-to-talk voice messaging, broadcast (one-to-many) messaging, video conferencing, video games, sharing of photographs and videos, and location sharing.

Quick Facts

Summary

  • Ranked #30,933th worldwide
  • Active users 1.2 B
  • Type Messaging Networks
  • Launched date Jan 21, 2011
  • Employees 1,373
  • Headquarters Shenzhen, Guangdong, China
  • Parent company Tencent Holdings Ltd. (2011 - present)

Founders

person
Allen Zhang Shaoyang

Networks

  • Brand value In 2020 $67.9 B
  • Revenue in 2020 $16.7 B
  • Net loss In 2020 N/A

Data Graphs

personvia Statista.com

Censorship

Current ControversiesCensorship of COVID-19 keywords. (via citizenlab.ca)

WeChat operates from China under Chinese law, which includes strong censorship provisions and interception protocols. Its parent company is obliged to share data with the Chinese government under the China Internet Security Law and National Intelligence Law. WeChat can access and expose the text messages, contact books, and location histories of its users. Due to WeChat's popularity, the Chinese government uses WeChat as a data source to conduct mass surveillance in China.

Some states and regions such as India, Australia, the United States, and Taiwan fear that the app poses a threat to national or regional security for various reasons.

In Jun 2013, the Indian Intelligence Bureau flagged WeChat for security concerns. India has debated whether or not they should ban WeChat for the possibility that too much personal information and data could be collected from its users. In Taiwan, legislators were concerned that the potential exposure of private communications was a threat to regional security.

In May 2020, Citizen Lab published a study which claimed that WeChat monitors foreign chats to hone its censorship algorithms.

On Aug 14, 2020, Gao Zhigang, a citizen of Taiyuan city, Shanxi Province, China, used WeChat to forward a video to his friend Geng Guanjun in the USA. Gao was later convicted on the charge of the crime “picking quarrels and provoking troubles”, and sentenced to ten months imprisonment.

The Court documents show that China's network management and propaganda departments directly monitor WeChat users, and the Chinese police used big data facial technology to identify Geng Guanjun as an overseas democracy activist.

In Sep 2020, Chevron Corporation mandated that its employees delete WeChat from company-issued phones.

Censorship

LGBTQ AccountsThe LGBTQ WeChat accounts were met with

an error message. (via Shutterstock)

On Jul 6, 2021, several WeChat accounts associated with China’s university campuses LGBTQ movement were blocked and then deleted without warning. Some of the accounts, which consisted of a mix of registered student clubs and unofficial grassroots groups, had operated for years as safe spaces for China’s LGBTQ youth, with tens of thousands of followers.

Many of the closed WeChat accounts display messages saying that they had "violated" Internet regulations, without giving further details, with account names being deleted and replaced with "unnamed", with a notice claiming that all content was blocked and accounts were suspended after receiving relevant complaints.

The U.S. State Department expressed concern that the accounts were deleted when they were merely expressing their views, exercising their right to freedom of expression and freedom of speech. Several groups that had their accounts deleted spoke out against the ban with one stating "[W]e hope to use this opportunity to start again with a continued focus on gender and society, and to embrace courage and love".

Original Idea

original ideaoriginal idea

WeChat began as a project at Tencent Guangzhou Research and Project center in Oct 2010. The original version of the app was created by Allen Zhang and named "Weixin" by Ma Huateng, CEO of Tencent and launched in 2011.

The government has actively supported the development of the e-commerce market in China - for example in the 12th five-year plan (2011-2015).

Brief History

2010
Oct WeChat began as a project at Tencent Guangzhou Research and Project center.
2011
Jan Weixin was launched by Allen Zhang.
May Introduced the voice messaging feature.
Oct Introduced the shake and message in a bottle features.
2012
Mar 100M users.
Apr Weixin becomes WeChat for the international market.
May Launched moments feature.
Sep 200M users.
2013
Jan 300M users.
Aug Introduced WeChat pay, WeChat emojis, and WeChat games.

100M uses outside of China.

2014
Jan Launched red packets feature.
Oct Introduced the option of sharing videos in the moments section.
2015

WeChat offered a heat map feature that showed crowd density.

May Launched WeChat run feature.
2016

Partnered with 60 Italian companies (WeChat had an office in Milan).

Jan Launched WeChat Out, a VOIP service.
2017
Jan Introduced Mini Programs feature.
May Russia blocked access to WeChat.
Sep WeChat was no longer working on Windows Phones.
Oct WeChat's revenues from social media advertising were US$0.9B.
2018
Jan Announced a record of 580,000 mini programs.
Feb 1B users.
2019

Introduced WeChat Pay HK, a payment service for users in Hong Kong.

2020

WeChat started censoring messages concerning the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jun India banned WeChat along with 58 other Chinese apps citing data and privacy issues.
Aug U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order seeking to ban WeChat in the U.S. in 45 days.
2021
Jul WeChat accounts associated with China’s university campuses LGBTQ movement were blocked.

Network Features

Public Accounts

Public AccountsWeChat public accounts. (via wechat.com)

Users can also create an official account, which falls under service, subscription, or enterprise accounts. Official accounts of organizations can apply to be verified.

Official accounts can be used as a platform for services such as hospital pre-registrations, visa renewal, or credit card service. To create an official account, the applicant must register with Chinese authorities, which discourages "foreign companies".

Messaging

MessagingWeChat messaging. (via wechat.com)

WeChat provides text messaging, hold-to-talk voice messaging, broadcast (one-to-many) messaging, video calls and conferencing, video games, photograph and video sharing, as well as location sharing.

WeChat also allows users to exchange contacts with people nearby via Bluetooth, as well as providing various features for contacting people at random if desired.

WeChat supports different instant messaging methods, including text message, voice message, walkie talkie, and stickers. Users can send previously saved or live pictures and videos, profiles of other users, coupons, lucky money packages, or current GPS locations with friends either individually or in a group chat.

Moments

MomentsWeChat moments. (via wechat.com)

Moments is an interactive platform that allows users to post images, text, and short videos taken by users. It also allows users to share articles and music (associated with QQ Music or other web-based music services). Friends in the contact list can give thumbs up to the content and leave comments.

Moments can be linked to Facebook and Twitter accounts, and can automatically post Moments content directly on these two platforms.

Privacy in WeChat works by groups of friends: only the friends from the user's contact are able to view their Moments' contents and comments. Contents posted can be set to "Private", and then only the user can view it.

WeChat Pay

WeChat PayWeChat Pay. (via wechat.com)

WeChat Pay is a digital wallet service incorporated into WeChat, which allows users to perform mobile payments and send money between contacts. Users can link their Chinese bank accounts, as well as Visa, MasterCard, and JCB. All WeChat users have their own WeChat Payment accounts.

A Mini program is an app within an app. Business owners can create mini apps in the WeChat system, implemented using JavaScript plus a proprietary API. Users may install these inside the WeChat app.

With one Mini Program, consumers could scan the Quick Response code using their mobile phone at a supermarket counter and pay the bill through the user's WeChat mobile wallet.

WeChat Enterprise

The app was meant to help employees separate work from private life. In addition to the usual chat features, the program lets companies and their employees keep track of annual leave days and expenses that need to be reimbursed, employees could ask for time off or clock in to show they were at work.

Wechat Channel

Features included Mini E-commerce store, Live Streaming, and linked to the Mini Program, etc.

Currently, the new features are only available for invited users and already very popular among business owners of different areas showing great interest as it is able to connect with all the users of Wechat through these new features. It also attracted many top KOL from other platforms to try out these new features.

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