3 social networking apps launched to challenge dominance of WeChat

Photo: Baidu

Chinese investors on Tuesday launched three social networking apps to make inroads into the social space dominated by Tencent’s WeChat in China.

The day began with the morning launch of MatongMT, literally closestoolMT, by Shenzhen Ringle Artificial Intelligence Technology Co.

The company was founded in February 2018 by Wang Xin, who was sentenced to prison after his last app, Qvod, was widely used to share porn videos.

MatongMT features anonymous networking, and now can be downloaded onto Android phones.

Later in the day came Duoshan, which was unveiled by Beijing Bytedance Technology, one of the fastest growing start-ups in China.

The app allows users to chat and send videos, which will disappear after 72 hours, to each other.

Duoshan does not have a like or comment function, which Bytedance said aimed at reducing the pressure users feel to present their best self on social media.

Finally, Beijing Kuairu Technology introduced Liaotianbao, roughly meaning “a nice tool for chatting” in Mandarin, an upgrade of Bullet Message which boasts as a rival to WeChat with its fast-expanding users two weeks after its launch - though the growth plunged quickly afterwards.

Liaotianbao adds news feeds and e-commerce in its interface, and allegedly rewards users for their usage and inviting friends to upload the app.

Links to MatongMT, Duoshan, and Liaotianbao have all been restricted from WeChat which claims to have one billion monthly active users worldwide, most of whom are from mainland China.

In a public response, Tencent played down challenges posed by the new releases to its leading status.

“You can’t just take a random product and call it a challenge to WeChat’s dominance,” said Zhang Jun, director of public relations at the tech giant.

“Tricking users to download and stay active by giving them a bunch of red packets — they have the nerve to call this a product?,” asked Zhang. “Anyone can work in any field, so just speak with your products.”

Due partly to its messenger and mobile payment functions, WeChat has become an indispensable app for most Chinese people.

Therefore, most experts believe that the three apps do not have the ability to compete head-to-head with the well established WeChat.

Specifically, MatongMT, due to its anonymous features and the short history of its chat group, could involve high-stakes of spreading illegal content by anonymous sources, which will be targeted by Chinese law enforcement officials.

As for Liaotianbao, there is no any difference between Bullet Message which has been in decline.

However, there are still chances for Duoshan to challenge WeChat - Bytedance could use its hot products, such as short video app Douyin, also known as TikTok in the English-speaking world, and news aggregator Jinri Toutiao, which means Today’s Headlines, to bring user traffic to the app.

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