It takes Weixin, Tencent’s mobile messaging app, no more than two years to reach 300 million registered users, as announced by Weixin team. Launched on January 21st, 2011, Weixin has become one of the most used mobile apps in China. And its international expansion is expected to be the first case of a Chinese internet product with a sense-making international presence.
With an English name, WeChat, Weixin started its international expansion not long after its launch. In October 2011, an English version was and services became available in the U.S., Japan and to users of regions that use traditional Chinese. In December that year, users in one hundred countries could bundle WeChat with their mobile phone numbers. Later it enabled Facebook connection to please overseas users. Now it plans to place servers in the U.S. and southeast Asian countries.
Slowing Down on Purpose
Growing too fast, Weixin was about to become a full-fledged platform, with Moments, a path-like sharing feature, for users to share content, Official Accounts for enterprises and media to interact with audiences, and Weixin Membership card for offline merchants to do customer relationship management.
Before long, Wexin became everything the public expected the mobile Internet to be, media platform, mobile entertainment center, mobile shopping marketplace, the one app connecting the online world and the offline commerce world, and so on.
Its monetization potential became one of the hottest topics. Online content marketing talent started studying the new platform. MFHUI, an online cosmetics retailer, successfully sold products through Weixin. Tenpay, the payment solution of Tencent’s, planned to enable direct payments within Weixin in early 2013. Rumor went that Weixin was testing HTML5-based mobile games, which echoes what Pony Ma, Tencent CEO, pointed out the the first money Chinese internet companies would make from mobile end must be mobile games.
Instead of allowing all the mentioned to grow out of control, Weixin team adjusted policies to restrict the growth. For instance, it reduced the number of messages that official accounts could send to audience from three to one a day, to be less bother to users.
On the other hand, third parties came to realized that it wasn’t an almighty platform. A journalist from a local print newspaper announced they were about to drop Weixin as a prime distribution channel, saying its system isn’t good for reaching more readers and good interactions — at least not so good as Weibo (article in Chinese).
As Dai Zhikang, who leads the Tencent’s lifestyle e-commerce service, put it, “Weixin developed too fast. How did you feel about Weixin one year ago? You cannot feel the same one year later. At first we used Weixin to save money as sending text messages costs money. Later it was for sending pictures. Now we use it for group-messaging and voice messages, and for the Moments. Your ideas, including some for building an O2O business on top of it, are different one year later.”
Back to the product.
It looks Weixin get back to the product itself, which is also what Tencent and this team is really expert at. The latest version, Wexin 4.5 which is under beta testing on iOS, added voice notification and features tailored to mobile experience, such searching music.