WeChat: China's alternative to WhatsApp

2014-02-20 18:33
The WeChat social network has 300 million subscribers. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

The WeChat social network has 300 million subscribers. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Shangai - As Facebook snaps up smartphone messaging service WhatsApp for a monumental $19bn in cash and shares, focus has turned to its rivals. Here are some background facts about China's popular mobile messaging application WeChat.

WeChat, or "Weixin" in Chinese, is a free instant messaging and social media mobile application developed by Chinese Internet giant Tencent and officially launched in January 2011. It has not only become a popular mobile communications tool in China, but has also attracted tens of millions of users in overseas markets.

The number of monthly active users worldwide reached 272 million as of end-September last year, more than doubling from a year earlier. The company does not specify how many are inside China or overseas.

WeChat provides text, photo, video and voice messaging services on major mobile platforms. The application has also incorporated a range of new services in its latest versions, including games, online payments and taxi booking. Its parent Tencent bought a 20% stake in restaurant listing platform Dianping.

Founded in 1998 in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, Tencent is one of the country's largest internet service providers and rivals domestic search engine giant Baidu and e-commerce platform Alibaba.

The company has a Hong Kong listed unit, Tencent Holdings, with a staggering market capitalisation of around HK$1.1 trillion ($140 billion).

Besides WeChat, Tencent has a popular instant messaging service in China, QQ, that was launched in 1999.

Naspers, which owns News24, has a 34% interest in Tencent.

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