Briefing: Would-be WeChat rival Bullet Messenger dismantles team

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聊天宝(原子弹短信)团队解散,罗永浩已退出 – 36kr

What happened: 36kr reported Wednesday that smartphone maker Smartisan’s competition with WeChat may soon be over. Bullet Messenger, developed by Beijing-based Kuairu Technology and launched by Smartisan in August, was marketed as an alternative to WeChat. On Tuesday, as many as 200 Bullet workers were reportedly dismissed, leaving behind only a small team that may be transferred to Smartisan. The phone company didn’t immediately comment on the news.

Why it’s important: Soon after its launch, Bullet Messenger’s App Store rankings surged, at least in part due to cash incentives that rewarded users for inviting friends and staying active. As of late September, however, downloads had dropped off significantly and Smartisan CEO Luo Yonghao stated on Weibo that the app’s features may not have been polished enough. Loose security and salacious content also gave the app a bad name, while rumors of layoffs and unpaid wages dogged Smartisan late in the year. Bullet Messenger’s apparent closure less than a year after launch doesn’t come as a surprise for industry observers. Other competitors aiming to knock WeChat off its throne continue to emerge, the most prominent of which may be AI-powered unicorn Bytedance’s Duoshan messenger.