Blog 10: What is social media?

What is WeChat?

WeChat is a Chinese messaging, social media and mobile payment app owned by Tencent, a Chinese multinational technology conglomerate holding company. It was launched in 2011, which is also known as Weixin in China.

Since 2011, the number of monthly active users has increased from 2.8 million to 1.2 billion.

WeChat is the fifth most-used app in the world. It accounts for 34% of the total mobile data traffic in China. It has the flexibility to connect to 85,000 other apps. People can share links from apps, including those banned in China, on WeChat with others.

WeChat Mini Program

WeChat Mini Programs are one of the most popular features. Users can log onto different platforms, such as online games, by using the mini programs. For example, people can order Starbucks in these programs without downloading an additional app.

Mini programs in WeChat

By the end of 2018, there are over 1 million mini programs. In 2019, these programs generated 800 billion yuan, which is around $ 120 billion. 

There are over 2,000 mini games available on WeChat, which have greatly influenced China’s gaming market. The unique thing about mini-game players is that players are much older and include more women compared to the general population of gamers. 69% of mini-game players are over 30 years old. Nearly half of the players are women.

A mini game named Jump

WeChat Pay

Other than WeChat Mini Program, there are other functions that are popular among people. WeChat Pay is one of them. It is a mobile payment method to enable users to complete payment from smartphones. People can make purchases, order a cab or transfer money to other people via WeChat Pay.

For foreigners from other countries, they can use bank cards from any bank in China or credit cards in their countries to sign up the WeChat Pay.

Difference between WeChat and other American social media apps

American social media apps tend to generate a specific feature or range of features to make their apps different from other social media apps. For instance, Snapchat is the only app that almost everything on it is temporary. 

However, WeChat and other Chinese social media apps tend to integrate more features into one app so that people don’t need to download many apps for different purposes. On WeChat, people can send private messages, play games, shop in various online stores, pay money and etc. 

Because most people use WeChat to sending private messages, it is also a platform for Chinese people to discuss political issues. Based on my personal experience, as long as message recipients don’t report those messages, it is safe to say that Chinese people can discuss sensitive topics and don’t need to worry about censorship when chatting with friends on WeChat.

Sources I use as references:

  1. 6 Powerful WeChat Statistics in 2020 You Need to Know
  2. Number of active WeChat messenger accounts Q2 2011-Q2 2020
  3. WeChat user age distribution 2019
  4. WeChat statistical highlights 2020; mini program DAU >300m
  5. WeChat reaches 1M mini programs, half the size of Apple’s App Store
  6. WeChat guide for foreigners

Published by Lgao

NBC News Asia Desk Fellow Reporter

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