The arrival of the many different instant messaging apps that are trying to outdo Whatsapp, such as LINE, Viber, and Facebook Messenger, is starting to seem a lot like the story of Peter and the Wolf. Today, our attention is being pulled towards WeChat, an app developed by the Chinese giant Tencent Holdings, which has recently surpassed 230 million active monthly users.
WeChat’s history may not be as well known by some because it became popular relatively later on. Originally called Weixin, it was launched in China in January 2011 and was backed by the telecommunications giant Tencent Holdings. This instant messaging service has since experienced exponential growth in Asia, which was only strengthened when it was released on the international market in April, 2012. For example, just this week, the owners released its annual earnings report that stated it had reached 235 million active monthly users (Whatsapp recently surprassed 300 million).
A priori, WeChat is more similar to LINE than it is to Whatsapp because it has a more relaxed interface and features. Registration is free, and it is available on practically every mobile platform: Android, iOS, BlackBerryOS, and Windows Phone. It is cross platform (users can communicate with each other even though they’re on different operating systems), and it has been translated into 18 languages.
All you need to get going on it is to enter your phone number and confirm your registration with a numeric code that will be sent via SMS. Also, you can connect the app to your Facebook account so you can see which of your friends from the popular social network are also using WeChat, in addition to those you have in your address book.
In addition to being able to chat instantly with two or more people simultaneously, you can also send and receive video, audio, emoticons, and even driving directions through the Google Maps API. You can also make video calls or conferences in real time with one or more users.
The rest of WeChat’s features are more in line with what you would expect from a chat room when it comes to getting to know new people anonymously. The “shake” feature allows you to shake your phone, and then the app puts you in touch with another person who has done the same thing, which is great for getting to know new people. There is also the “Look Around” feature, which tells you who is located nearby, and you can set your location to being visible or hidden within the service. Finally, there is “Drift Bottle,” which allows you to send a message to a random person you don’t know, who can then freely choose to respond or not.
Ultimately, WeChat has become a serious rival in the field of instant messaging. With China and other Asian countries as its main user base, it is currently investing a tremendous amount of money in advertising so it can become more popular in Europe, the U.S., and Latin America. For example, Leo Messi has the leading role in a commercial currently being shown in many countries. Should we give WeChat a chance?