Alibaba Group released today the 4.0 version of Laiwang, a social networking service which helps users to keep in touch with their good friends, to tap into instant messaging market after the e-commerce giant established Internet Communication Department earlier this month.

Compared with similar IM tools of WeChat and EasyChat by NetEase and China Telecom, Laiwang targets at a pure friend interaction platform and Alibaba has no plan to introduce e-commerce elements into the platform, said Lu Zhaoxi, CEO of the company.

Laiwang rolled out a slew of new features to guarantee the privacy of users, such as automatic message eliminating function, “burn after reading”. Zou Mengrui, head of the project, added that they are also developing private picture albums, screen lock, etc.

QQ截图20130923193528

Laiwang planned to include VOIP function into the platform. In addition, users can establish discussion groups with up to 500 members, much higher than WeChat’s 40 members. Other features of the new version are emoticons, doodling and vocal photo-sharing. But the company does not plan to introduce games into the app as WeChat did.

Laiwang aims to cater for the communication demands of users in a bid to connect them under different scenarios, such as social networking, life and consumption, said Lu Zhaoxi. He added that Laiwang can draw upon the huge user base secured by other platforms under Alibaba Group.

Laiwang debuted in 2011, the same year of WeChat’s launch. After two years, however, the registered users of WeChat surpassed 400 million, while Laiwang only records 1 million users. This is because Laiwang is mostly used by internal employees in a bid to perfect the product and no promotion activity was launched, said Zou Mengrui.

Alibaba released a series of promotion activities with the release of 4.0 version. Newly registered or active users can win the gifts of iPhone 5s, Ali Cloud Phone and Wasu Rainbow, etc.