China’s craze for Bullet Messenger (子弹短信) is quickly cooling down. Lambasted for numerous problems including salacious contents and lax security settings, the once red-hot WeChat rival is losing traction among Chinese users as the excitement in trying out the latest viral app quickly wanes.
Bullet Messenger’s problem of rampant racy content was pointed out shortly after its product launch on August 20, but it seems that the company hasn’t been able to address the issue properly, only letting it grow bigger. It’s common to get sexual greetings from strangers with attractive-looking female avatars, local media reported. Failure to manage content not only hurts user experiences. It is also a concern of greater importance in China, where keeping aligned with the government’s crackdown on “vulgar” content is critical for tech firms.
The lax security setting of the app is one cause for the content issue. Similar to WeChat, Bullet Messenger is positioned as an IM tool among friends, but it allows users to send messages to everyone, even if the other party is not a friend. Criminals have used this loophole to send pornographic messages and other spams to Bullet Messenger users. To make the matter worse, users have to add the stranger as a friend before they can block the spam source.
To some extent, Bullet Messenger’s dilemma reveals the long-term pain point of the industry. Online sources that are most eager for traffic, usually promoting pornography, gambling, and drug-related contents, are prone to take advantage of user-generated content apps, which is naturally a source of online traffic, according to Yang Miao, founder of Chong Tech. Bullet Messenger needs to improve content control and features if it wants to survive, he pointed out.
Made by Smartisan-backed startup Kuairu, Bullet Messenger is a black horse challenging WeChat’s dominance in China’s social networking industry. The app has amassed 4 million active users in just 9 days since its launch, beating WeChat and Douyin to become the most downloaded social app in Chinese app store on August 28. Along with the momentum, it lured RMB150 million funding ten days after launch. Due to various problems, however, its popularity wanes as quickly as it rose. The app has seen a precipitous drop since the beginning of September.