Why WeChat Is the Swiss Army Knife of the Chinese Digital World

Chinese e-commerce colossus Tencent is an elephant in the room that is impossible not to talk about as the company surpasses Facebook in value after a blockbuster year that saw its share price more than double. Tencent makes headlines on many accounts, including foreign high-caliber investments – earlier this year, it picked up a 12% stake in Snap (the owner of Snapchat) and 5% in electric vehicle giant Tesla, aside from series of investments in startups across Asia. Investments, however, are not what I'd like to drill into this time.

Tencent's WeChat and its scale

Tencent is probably best known for its mobile messenger WeChat (less for Tencent QQ, which was released in 1999 – 12 years earlier than WeChat), and rightfully so. Brad Stone and Lulu Chen, Bloomberg, share that more than two-thirds of Chinese people use Tencent's two messaging apps, WeChat and QQ, for everything from texting to shopping, flirting, dating, watching videos, playing games, and ordering food and taxis.

Furthermore, Mary Meeker's 2017 Internet Trends report reveals that ~900 million hours a day out of a total of ~3.1 billion hours of mobile app usage took place in WeChat. Collectively, Chinese users spend 1.7 billion hours a day on Tencent apps, which is more than they spend on all other apps combined.

Released in 2011, WeChat now has close to 938 million active users, more than a third of whom spend in excess of four hours a day on the service, with half of the users spending >90 minutes a day on the app. To put that in context, Stone and Chen share that the average person around th ...

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