I’ve spent the last few months hammering Pando readers upside the head with talk of China’s ass-kicking mobile messaging app Weixin and how it could teach the West, and specifically Facebook, a thing or two.
I’m sorry, but I’m not going to shut up about it anytime soon. Especially now. Weixin – which has an English-language version called WeChat – continues to evolve at fiber-optic speed. And Tencent, its parent company, recently announced that it will soon boast a key feature that no American social network or communications platform is even close to offering: payments.
Tencent’s PayPal-like service Tenpay has just turned seven years old, and it took the occasion of its birthday to announce that it will be doing some pretty cool stuff with Weixin in the near future. In the pipeline: the ability to pay friends by using Weixin’s “shake” function instead of inputting account numbers digit by digit; and paying for goods and services by using Weixin’s pre-existing QR code scanning technology. To that end, Tenpay will be integrated with “Wei-life,” the app’s shopping discounts service.
Weixin offers a raft of features, from Instagram-like photo-sharing with filters, to audio messaging, video calls, and games.
“We are trying to create an ideal that you can do anything with your phone,” said Tenpay’s general manager, Lai Zhiming, according to TechNode. “In the future Tenpay will develop more payment methods and functions accordingly.”
Tenpay has more than 190 million users and partners with about 400,000 merchants across a range of sectors, from games to travel to business-to-consumer retail. Its main competitors are Alibaba’s Alipay, and the UnionPay alliance of banks.
Meanwhile, Weixin’s growing popularity – 200 million users and counting – threatens to undermine the stranglehold on microblogging that Sina Weibo has enjoyed over the past three years. I’ve heard numerous anecdotal reports that Weibo users have stopped using the service in favor of Weixin, which allows photo-sharing and status updates that are similar to Weibo, which claims more than 300 million registered accounts.
Last week, China Daily reported that a 26-year-old Chinese student studying in the UK has a microblog on Weixin that counts more than 330,000 followers. That’s a far cry from the celebrities on Weibo who have millions of followers, but it’s not bad for a no-name dude who’s not even living in the country where most of his readers are. He posts audio messages to Weixin and says it’s easier to use than Weibo.
Rather awesomely, pop stars are also using Weixin to connect with fans, according to the newspaper. For example, Taiwanese singer Mavis Fan uses it to sing happy birthday songs or unique wake-up ditties dedicated to individual fans.
Keep in mind, folks, that Weixin has done all this in the space of 22 months. This thing is just getting started.
For a look at how Weixin shapes up alongside Sina Weibo from a business and marketing perspective, check out this infographic from Shanghai-based research firm CIC. (The graphic refers to Weixin by its English name, WeChat.)
[Lead picture via TechInAsia]