WeChat may be the default app for almost every Chinese person, but not long ago its older sibling, QQ, had a similarly formidable position. For years, QQ had been the biggest social networking app in China. It wasn’t until Q1 2017 that WeChat, growing at 23% YoY, surpassed QQ for the first time to take the crown with 938 million monthly active users (MAU). QQ, on the other hand, saw a 2% decline to 861 million MAU. Even with the slowing growth, QQ still stands as the country’s second most popular social app, and it wants to make sure it maintains its edge.

Instead of engaging in direct competition with WeChat, Tencent’s 18-year-old instant messenger QQ has repositioned itself to be the one-stop entertainment portal for young Chinese, a generation with a propensity for subcultures. Last month, QQ held its third ACG (anime, comic, and games) convention, QQJOY, amid Chengdu’s scorching heat. Thousands of enthused Chinese youths dressed as their favorite “2D” characters (二次元 in Chinese, nijigen in Japanese), a term referring to manga and anime subculture.

“We are transforming QQ from a pure messaging app into one that supports chatting, sharing, interest groups, and digital content like games, anime, literature, music, live streaming, and so on,” says (in Chinese) Liu Xiankai, general manager of value-added products at Tencent’s social network group (SNG), one of the tech giant’s seven business groups. “These functions are aimed at building an ecosystem that captures QQ’s young users.”

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Rita Liao

Telling the uncommon China stories through tech. I can be reached at ritacyliao [at] gmail [dot] com.