Thursday 22nd November 2018

Chinese social network WeChat surpasses 1 billion global users

Cleo Chalk
by on 7th March 2018

WeChat, the Chinese social media app, has revealed it now has 1 billion monthly active users across the globe, up from the 980 million monthly active users it reported at the end of Q3 2017.

Known as the “app for everything,” WeChat’s billion monthly users utilize the platform to perform many different tasks, including sending instant messages, ordering taxis, making payments and booking tickets.

Of WeChat’s one billion total users, 902 million users are active every day and exchange an estimated 38 billion messages.

WeChat allows users to open more than one account e.g. one for personal use and one for business use, so the monthly active user total may not be indicative of the total number of unique users or individual people accessing the platform.

Despite the rapid growth of China’s smartphone sector, WeChat, which is owned by Tencent Holdings, one of the largest tech firms in the world by market capitalization, has struggled to establish a meaningful presence in foreign markets.

Even as WeChat hails its latest figures, there are rumblings that the company will struggle to reach another billion to truly rival Facebook.

Facebook, which is blocked in China, has 2.13 billion monthly active users worldwide and WhatsApp, owned by Facebook, has 1.5 billion monthly users.

Discussing WeChat’s expansion, Matthew Brennan, founder of WeChat research firm ChinaChannel, told CNN: “The growth on WeChat has been slowing down consistently for the last two years. It’s really topped out, I feel. It’s not going to go much further.”

Success in overseas markets depends on attracting non-Chinese nationals who have so far proved unwilling to use the “App for Everything”, preferring to use separate apps, like Paypal, to navigate 21st century life.

Some analysts suggest foreign consumers have become too accustomed to established platforms like PayPal and established messaging platforms and networks like WhatsApp and Facebook, and alternatives will always struggle for market share.

WeChat’s popularity can also be attributed in part to its willingness to play ball with the country’s leaders – and while, in a carefully worded press release from January this year, it denies storing users’ messages on its servers, the company’s privacy policy declares it may need to retain users’ information if requested by the government.

The January press release was a direct response to criticism from Chinese businessman Li Shufu, who stated the firm “must be watching all of WeChats every day.”

Li Shufu owns the parent company of car manufacturer Volvo. According to the BBC, it’s one of few Chinese corporations not controlled by the state.