Earlier this month Tom Online, the distributor and operator of Skype for China, announced that Microsoft who acquired Skype from eBay in 2011 would take over the Skype China on Nov. 24th (announcement in Chinese).
In 2004 Skype decided to establish a joint venture to introduce a Chinese version with Tom Online, a Hong Kong-based Internet service provider.The only custom version of Skype charges for international calls and features ads. The current revenues from Skype are unknown for Tom Online delisted from the NASDAQ and Hong Kong Exchange in 2007.
Tom claims there has been over 100 million accumulated users of this version. However, Skype isn’t one of the prominent Internet-based communication services in China.
Both Tom and Skype admitted messages on this version was monitored and censored upon requirements by Chinese authorities.
Earlier this year Microsoft announced to close its own instant messaging service Messenger and migrate users to Skype. It is estimated Microsoft would do the same in China after having taken over Skype for China, but both sides declined to comment on it when reached out by local media (in Chinese).
Referred to as MSN in China, Microsoft Messenger has been losing users and market share in China in recent years. It was estimated MSN had less than 5% market share in China in mid-2012.
For years the most popular messaging service in China is QQ IM. And now Tencent, QQ’s parent company, has been well-positioned in mobile text/voice messaging sector with WeChat, which had 272 million monthly active users in China and overseas in Q3 2013. Peter Zheng, now vice president of Tencent, used to be the head of MSN Space, the blogging service of Microsoft Messenger China. He left MSN China for Tencent for he felt the former didn’t do right operating such a service in China. After joining Tencent he successfully helped the company build Qzone, the largest social networking and sharing platform in China by user base and active users, that had 623 million monthly active users in the third quarter of 2013.