Alibaba has been tenacious in spearheading its forays into the social networking sector, where its arch competitor Tencent still rules. The e-commerce giant has added lots of social networking features to the recent updates of Alipay in hopes of capitalizing on the huge user base of the payment app.
However, it seems that the users weren’t quite happy about Alibaba’s endeavors in turning a payment tool into a social networking app. “Quanzi”, an interest-based community function in Alipay’s most recent update, version 9.9.7, has now been accused of pimping as erotic photos run rampant in the app.
In some aspects, Quanzi resembles WeChat’s Moments feature, allowing users to post photos and short videos in a rolling news feed. Users can interact with “Likes”, comment, and send up to 200 RMB (29 USD) as tips to the content creators they like. Commenting is only open to users who has higher than 750 points on Alibaba’s credit-scoring system Sesame Credit.
However, the involvement of monetary reward has lead to the emergence of lots of revealing photos, meant to attract tips from male followers who also sent flirty comments.
The communities, either open for all users or invitation-based, currently covers a range of sectors in the fields of gaming, pets, electronics, and maternal care. But two of the most popular groups are female university students and white-collar women, almost wholly due to their lascivious content. Current estimates put the number of users who have browsed these two groups at over 13 million and 11 million, respectively.
This isn’t the first time for Alipay has tried to add social networking features. In the 9.0 update released in July last year, networking features targeting close friends were added, but similarly, they are not well received by the users.
Wang Sicong, an outspoken blogger and son of China’s richest man Wang Jianlin, is among a group of acute critics on the company.
“Alipay has transformed itself into a place for men to find hookers”, he said on his Weibo account.
Investigative journalist Luo Changping also commented sarcastically, “A small step for social networking, a big step for prostitution.”