WeChat, there was the micro-message

L’utilizzo di WeChat in Cina
21 Nov 2019

Whatsapp had to do with it?

The history of WeChat (微信 – Wēixìn) begins just eight years ago. Micro-messages, as the translation states and, in our land, the identity of the “Chinese Whatsapp”.

Things have changed quickly then. The micro-messages service became a big platform for digital services. In China, it is a way to live, manage, communicate, sell, buy, join, and be certified for most people. And, naturally, the mandatory visa for who, coming from afar, wants to do business in that country.

The Chinese Whatsapp? No kidding. To use a familiar example, we should add many more models: Amazon, Facebook, Google, Paypal, and Uber. And it could not be enough.

Battle the loneliness

The history of WeChat is the history of the rise of the internet in China, in the era of social and mobile. A long and memorable piece of common history, made by technology and by the country it originated, in the last eight years.

At the beginning of the millennium, two Chinese companies, Baidu and Alibaba, built their internet supremacy, respectively, on research and electronic commerce. A third subject, founded in 1998, built its leadership in the communication to become, later, the digital giant of our days. We are talking about Tencent that, among its many activities, also owns WeChat.

From 2010 the mass spread of the smartphone marked the development of Chinese society as we know it today.

It all started with an instant message application, Kik, born in Waterloo University, in Canada. Someone, in Tencent (the holding proprietary of WeChat), that was betting on its social QQ, noticed it and decided to do something similar, and better.

Not all went well, at the beginning. When, in 2011, WeChat was launched, about two months after the product team started creating the software, the simple chat function was not so enthusiastic among the first users, mainly workers in the technological area. Zhang Xiaolong, in the official story of the company, remembers that SMS messages seemed more immediate and reliable.

Push to talk

The “push to talk” function turned the tide. Without it, the WeChat project could have aborted within the year. WeChat became very popular thanks to its ability to connect unknown people. Always in 2011, they launched the “shake”: shake the phone and connect with others that are doing the same.

Apparently, the egg of Columbus. Already with QQ Tencent aimed to a popular instant messaging product to connect virtual strangers.

This function was crucial for millions of young people that were leaving their homes from all China to work in cities where they didn’t know anyone. In a moment of Chinese history, in which computers were pretty uncommon. In 2006, in the country, 6 people on 100 owned a computer.

In 2012, one year after the launch, WeChat reached 100 million users. Facebook, for example, made it in four, and Twitter in five.