“Our ultimate goal is to become a bellwether in mobile voice search industry”, said Li Zhifei, founder of Chumen Wenwen, a Siri-like application focused on daily life services. Li founded the company after leaving Google’s machine translation team in 2012.

Chumen Wenwen — in Chinese it means “Ask it when going out” — got traction from WeChat on top of which it built a full-winged voice-based information seeking service. After receiving voice queries, it returns WeChat messages with information on travel, local life and urban transportation. Users can ask about flights, hotels, restaurants nearby, subway, etc. Currently users will be directed to third parties like Ctrip to make payments and complete the booking process. The upcoming WeChat 5.0 with payments capability will enable completing transactions.

Chumen Wenwen chose WeChat for its huge user base and traffic, and because it’s a voice-based platform. Li, however, is not sure whether a real business can last on top of WeChat. He’s not alone. There are some concerns, such as whether Tencent, WeChat’s parent company, would copy and kill third-party applications, or how far third-party services will be allowed to leverage the platform.

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Emma Lee

Emma Lee is Shanghai-based tech writer, covering startups and tech happenings in China and Asia in general. We are looking for stories related to tech and China. Reach her at lixin@technode.com.