It was launched just 4 years ago by Chinese investment holding company Tencent, one of the largest internet companies in the world.
As of earlier this year, We Chat had 549 million monthly active users (MAUs) among over one billion registered users, almost all of them in Asia.
This post is all about We Chat, but it’s also about more than just We Chat.
While seemingly just a messaging app, We Chat is actually more of a portal, a platform, and even a mobile operating system depending on how you look at it.
Furthermore, because users have to opt-in to official accounts, they are essentially always “logged in” to them.
This is especially effective for lower frequency but important services like managing credit card statements or utility bills.
Approved by We Chat after a brief application process, there are well over 10 million of these official accounts on the platform — ranging from celebrities, banks, media outlets, and fashion brands to hospitals, drug stores, car manufacturers, internet startups, personal blogs, and more.
It’s important to emphasize that these official accounts are nothing like verified accounts on U. social networks, where being “official” is mainly a badge of authenticity or identity verification.
That portal takes the form of the We Chat “Wallet”, which is not a traditional wallet but a menu of carefully curated, pre-selected service providers that users can transact with after inputting their payment credentials.
Such apps are perfectly suited to the lightweight app model, because users are spared the trouble of downloading separate native full-featured apps (yet can still choose to do so if the preview of what the app does seems compelling enough). Developing official We Chat accounts has become so popular in China that new startups sometimes test their version 1.0 product on We Chat’s platform dedicating resources to building and marketing a standalone native app.
Another benefit for developers is getting core app functionality without having to support multiple mobile OSes.
Ultimately, however, We Chat should matter to all of us because it shows what’s possible when an entire country — which currently has a smartphone penetration of 62% (that’s almost 1/3 of its population) — “leapfrogs” over the PC era directly to mobile.
We Chat was not a product that started as a website and then was adapted for mobile, it was (to paraphrase a certain movie) the ARPU of Whats App, the largest messaging platform in the world. Known in Chinese as Weixin (微信) — “micro letter” — We Chat is first and foremost a messaging app for sending text, voice, and photos to friends and family.