Chinese tech giant Alibaba has been testing a campus social networking app named Real since November, according to Chinese media reports on Tuesday.

Why it matters: The Real app is Alibaba’s latest move into social networking, historically the domain of its arch-rival Tencent and one where the e-commerce giant has repeatedly failed to gain traction.

  • Alibaba launched a messaging service called Laiwang in 2013 to compete with WeChat. Although it engaged in large-scale promotion both internally and externally, the app failed to take hold.
  • College campus-based social networking has recently drawn some big-name players. JD Finance began testing social networking app Liwowo in early September, and Bytedance’s acquisition of Biu Campus made headlines mid-month.

Details: Real, or “Ruwo” in Chinese, targets university students using the slogan, “Real Life, Real You.” The app supports facial recognition for login and features a variety of filters and stickers for photo and video editing.

  • The new app was developed by the Laiwang team. Chen Hang, Laiwang’s former product manager and now CEO of Dingtalk, oversees the project, Chinese media reported.
  • The app is now being tested by users who are invited to trial, mainly students attending the several universities located in Alibaba’s home city of Hangzhou.
  • A spokeswoman for Alibaba did not immediately respond with comments when reached by TechNode on Wednesday.

Context: Though it has struggled with individual social networking products, Alibaba has scored some successes in the enterprise-facing networking segment.

  • Alibaba’s enterprise efficiency app DingTalk says it has 200 million individual users and more than 10 million enterprise users as of August.
  • In addition to standalone social apps, Alibaba is also trying to integrate social networking features into its e-commerce apps including Taobao and Tmall.
  • Alibaba-backed payment tool Alipay also hit some bumps in its social networking efforts.

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 More by Emma Lee

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