A Popular Chinese Social Networking App Blazes Its Own Path
SHANGHAI — Every half-hour or so, Jenny Zhao, young and wired, unlocks her iPhone 5 to connect with friends using Weixin, China’s wildly popular social messaging app.
“I’m probably on Weixin six hours a day,” says Ms. Zhao, 24, a cosmetics marketer in Shanghai. “A lot of what I do revolves around it.”
Weixin (pronounced way-shin) is this country’s killer app, a highly addictive social networking tool that allows smartphone users to send messages and share news, photos, videos and web links, much like America’s WhatsApp, or Line, a Japanese communications and messaging app. In the United States, a similar version is known as WeChat.
Just three years after being introduced in China, Weixin has nearly 300 million users — a faster adoption rate than Facebook or Twitter — giving the app a dominant position in what is now the world’s biggest smartphone market. It has already stopped the growth of the messaging service of the country’s biggest mobile phone company and provoked China’s largest Internet companies to create competing services.
But in the free-for-all in China, one leading social media company is not a factor. Analysts say the phenomenal rise of Weixin all but dooms any chance that Facebook will become the market leader there.