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What Would a WeChat Replacement Need? (vac.dev)
62 points by oskarth 44 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 79 comments



I think people that feel WeChat is simply a social network don't understand WeChat. Though the article doesn't say this, the comments here and popular opinion generally think that.

From my time visiting China I'm not sure it's possible to live, in the urban areas, without WeChat. Payments are basically all through WeChat; I found places that didn't take Visa/Mastercard (or even know what those were, although that may have just been my pronunciation).

So the answer to this article is simple:

- For China: CCP approval

- For America/Europe: WeChat would never happen, unless there was severe monopolisation that allowed a company to roll something like WeChat out successfully, or the federal government / national governments mandated it

The article discusses how a WeChat replacement may be done using blockchain, not what a WeChat replacement needs to be successful (as the title would imply), or what may be the most technically viable way of doing it.


Nowadays, it's literally impossible to live in China without either WeChat or Alipay as health codes are integrated into the apps and it can be impossible to move outside without displaying your health code. Travelling on trains, planes and long haul busses now require you to have the app.

I don't think enough has been made about how extraordinary it is that a sovereign government has let such a core governmental function simply be handed over to for-profit businesses. It would be like, in the US, registering for your drivers license by Signing in with Google and being bound by the Google TOS. Commit an offense that causes Google to delete your account and now you can't legally drive anymore.


It doesn't seem that extraordinary if in this scenario Google became an appendage of the federal government, providing it complete and unfettered access to its systems, complied to any and all requests without question, there was never concern for overreach or public backlash, etc.


People outside of China have wildly unrealistic ideas about the true relationship between large Chinese tech companies and the government.

https://www.ft.com/content/760142e6-740e-11ea-95fe-fcd274e92... is sadly paywalled but it's an excellent account of the actual negotiations that have been going on between Tencent, Alibaba and the many different bureaucratic layers of the Chinese government.


Does anyone actually believe these long-winded articles that attempt to paint some sort of contentious, arms-length relationship between the CCP and their state-funded tech companies?

Obviously, the relationship is messy. But it's undoubtedly basic cronyism, and these companies succeed because they are the 'chosen ones' and their direct ties to government officials.



So I gather in China you pay for retail purchases WeChat or Alipay and they are privately owned? It's not very different in Australia. We have Visa and Mastercard, both privately owned.

In Australia, the old rule "everyone must accept cash" has been swept away by covid-19. They've even upped limit you have at which you have to enter a PIN, so most purchases are contactless. Cash will be another casualty of covid-19 I guess. There are only two contactless platforms accepted everywhere - Visa and Master. Both are privately held. And they are head quartered in another country.

Is the USA so different?


I recall, this actually happened a few months ago, but with Uber.

What happened, was Uber started dropping customers that had a poor rating. Maybe they didn’t give a $5 tip, so the driver gave them a poor rating. Who knows why.

But the result is that the public, the customer in question, can no longer use Uber’s services.

This is terrifying, in that Uber wanted to eliminate public taxi services, and privatize it on their proprietary platform.

If you think this through, then what could be the potential long term effect of this?

Possibly that we as consumers, are now beholden to some random rating system, by some private company, that has the final authority to withhold essential public services from us.

And from what we have seen, these private businesses have an effective lobbying system, that can get lawmakers to draft laws in their favor.


A few points. Uber drivers cannot see if individual riders have tipped them. They also cannot see your individual rating of them, nor you of theirs.

Policing their own platform works both ways. When I order an uber I expect a certain quality of service. ie a safe, comfortable ride. Likewise, when I drive for uber I expect people to respect my property (my car). I expect uber to fulfill both of these things so that it is a usable platform.

Beyond that, if you get removed from using uber can't you use lyft, didi, a taxi, or public transit?

I would hope that the long term effect of this is that people behave in ubers. I personally have had friends throw up in them or drunkenly harass female drivers.


> Uber drivers cannot see if individual riders have tipped them.

This is not true, I can see exactly which rides included a tip. However, I can't see this before I rate the rider so I can't penalize a rider for not tipping.


How is this different from a taxi company? A taxi company can and will blacklist your address. In fact, it may blacklist entire neighborhoods. This happens today.


the for profit business has deep relationship with the government and is perhaps like its virtual arm, and it benefits the government by providing deeper access to people's activities.


A better way of describing this is, imagine that for the $1200 stimulus checks the US is sending out, the only way to receive that money would be to install a web app where your only choices are Sign in with Google or Sign in with Facebook. Once signed in, Google/Facebook would use their proprietary big data algorithms to determine if you are eligible for stimulus and, if you are, they would deposit it directly into your account via Google Pay/Facebook Pay.

If they reject you and you believe it's in error, the only way to clear up that error is to talk to a Google/Facebook employee, there's no way to directly talk to the US government.

On the one hand, it fixes one of the problems with the stimulus which is that it's not getting money into the hands of people fast enough. A Google/FB run system could have probably gotten the money into people's hands in days rather than the months it's taking the US govt. On the other hand, it's a totally wild scenario. There's no way it would even be thinkable that that's what the US government would roll out.

But that's the reality in China right now. For example, the law in Beijing right now is that you cannot check yourself into a hotel without showing a green Beijing Health Code and you can't get a health code without installing WeChat/Alipay. That's how crazy the situation is in China. Totally core government functions are being outsourced to for profit, private companies.


Just to add that most Chinese businesses accept payments through AliPay along with WeChat.


That is the duopoly in China. Alibaba and Wechat - the 2 apps that allow you to do everything. Including paying utilities, phone bills, even taxes.


Alibaba get to be endorsed by building computing infrastructure for the government, the cake is already split between Alibaba and Tencent.

There isn't much chance someone else could get a cut, even for state owned companies, I guess same applies to Cloud Computing market in China.


> - For America/Europe: WeChat would never happen, unless there was severe monopolisation that allowed a company to roll something like WeChat out successfully, or the federal government / national governments mandated it

Isn't Apple ecosystem basically US/European WeChat? It's not a single app, but they use tight integration and single device lock to create essentially a full copy of all WeChat services with iMessage, Apple Pay, Health, etc? Apple basically control communications, payments and health data of their users and works with other vendors to integrate them primarily as payment, content and preferred identification provider.

You get all of that nicely packaged into a single box. The only difference is that you can't use it on a cheap phone.


If you go into a McDonald's in China there are self service touch screens. If you want to use these, the _only_ way to do it is with WeChat. You cannot use a credit card, if you don't have WeChat payments, you queue and pay in cash (this was my experience anyway). That's how ingrained WeChat is in Chinese society. You should think less about features and instead look at how it is actually used there.


>Isn't Apple ecosystem basically US/European WeChat?

If you could only perform all your life necessities by using a single app from Apple, like taxis/medical records/paying for things/transit access/government stuff/etc., then sure. But for now, there isn't anything like this. In fact, it would not come to fruition at any point in this current timeline imo, given that for each one of those things, Apple has competitors who have offerings just as good or better for each of those categories.

Also, I heavily doubt that US would ever subject itself to every single aspect of people's lives having to go through a single private entity with no alternatives available.

I think another part of the reason it happened in China (aside from obvious ones that people already mentioned, like WeChat being de-facto pretty much an extension of CCP) is the fact that before WeChat there was nothing. So WeChat came to an empty field and filled all that vacuum. In 2020, there is no such vacuum in the US/Europe. For each of the tasks one would use their smartphone for, there are multiple competent competing entries.


The article doesn't really mention blockchain other than 2 times quickly, it seems like everyone in this comment section seems to believe that though as if they said you MUST use blockchain at every step of building something like this.


The article demands decentralisation of infrastructure, which if you want to facilitate payments like Wechat does which is a large and key component of the platform, requires some sort of consensus mechanism.

Doesn't necessarily need to be a blockchain, but something similar in spirit, and this quickly falls apart because WeChat does a billion+ transactions per day, that's about tens of thousands per second and there's no decentralised, secure solution for this.


I think also because wechat outside of china is a very stripped down version of wechat functionality inside china. It's actually very convenient for many aspects of life there.


Of course it is possible to live there without WeChat. That's an illusion I get tired of hearing. Been there in 2019, done it, had no problems using cash. Probably Mastercard would also have wirked for buying a train ticket, if I had persisted and acted as if I did not have it in cash. (And no, no one robbed me.)


No problems using cash? Sure, if you only go to the stores and restaurants catering to foreigners.

Last year I noticed I could no longer use cash to touch up my Shanghai Transportation card balance. There are still some touch up machines but they now only accept WeChat / AliPay QR codes for payment. I have to go to the one service counter in the station to use cash to touch it up and sometimes those aren't even staffed.

Not only that, but the Shanghai Metro has moved away from their own NFC Transportation cards to installing bar code scanners that directly use WeChat / AliPay QR codes when you enter and exit the station, then charge your account accordingly. They also have support for NFC and Apple Pay. But to set up the Transit Card in Apple Pay you need a China Union Bank Card. The alternative is to install the Shanghai Metro App, link that to AliPay with the new option for foreigners to add foreign credit cards (this by the way creates a virtual Chinese prepaid debit card which eventually will refund unused funds).

If you buy streetfood (from those BBQs late at night in the middle of city intersections for example in Shanghai) you now find that payment with WeChat may be the only option.

Beggars don't want cash and instead are displaying a big WeChat QR code to receive payments.

I was staying in my friend's local apartment complex. To enter the building you needed to use a WeChat app. Unfortuantely we couldn't register me because I didn't get a Chinese phone number this time. It took a lot of awkward conversations to eventually get someone to issue me a physical NFC key card, something they no longer do.

Here is also an article on the subject: https://www.wsj.com/articles/chinas-mobile-payment-boom-chan...


> No problems using cash? Sure, if you only go to the stores and restaurants catering to foreigners.

Well, maybe you've been in a different region or something, but I've been in capital of a 2 provinces and quite rural areas too, no problems whatsoever. Sounds like you are talking exclusively about Shanghai. I've not been specifically to Shanghai, so who knows, maybe there it is that shitty. Not where I went though, so don't try to discredit my telling of how it is as "visiting only stores and restaurants catering to foreigners", cause that's BS.

> If you buy streetfood (from those BBQs late at night in the middle of city intersections for example in Shanghai) you now find that payment with WeChat may be the only option.

Done that, with cash, in a major city, capital of a province.

> Beggars don't want cash and instead are displaying a big WeChat QR code to receive payments.

Perhaps in Shanghai as well? I've seen them begging for cash, where I went, so that is also a quite general statement to make.

Seems your personal experience is either limited to Shanghai or simply completely different. Speak a little Chinese to the locals and they lighten up. Never on my whole trip have I encountered a single situation, where they would not take cash, while having seen a lot of different places, from capitals to villages, to street food, to little markets. Perhaps just don't go to Shanghai, if it is that bad.

I find it a little bit stupid, that people downvote a first hand account of how things are in several areas in China, as if it was something bad in a discussion about such things. This is exactly what this discussion is about, so it's on topic and adds valuable information to the discussion: Not everywhere it is as you describe it to be. Don't confuse any personal location limited experience with an overall situation in a huge nation like China.


People seem to have the idea that WeChat is some sort of amazing application -- it's not. In fact the only reason why it has the market share it does in China is simply because all competitors are blocked.

Some of WeChat's real pain points are: - No backing up your messages to the cloud like WhatsApp or having them loaded from the server like Facebook Messenger. Moving all your messages from one phone to another is quite the ordeal .

- Complete disregard for platform standards. Specifically notifications on Android and Windows 10 are atrocious. Both WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger have notifications that are well integrated with the especially the Android notification system, WeChat notifications however are not.

-A lot of nice to have chat features are either non existent or have just recently been introduced. For example a poor implementation of quoting a previous message was just introduced like a month ago, and there are no reactions for specific messages -- and no timeline for implementing them either.

WeChat does have quite a bit of different "apps" built into it, but not really more convenient to use than the separate apps are. It's mainly just a casualty of China's lack of anti monopoly legislation.On my phone I have Alipay (the other half of china's online payment duopoly) installed together with WeChat, and almost always use it for payment (It's pretty much accepted everywhere WeChat is)


>No backing up your messages to the cloud like WhatsApp or having them loaded from the server like Facebook Messenger.

Their old product QQ has it, the reason they didn't do it on WeChat, I think it's because they have no other choice since:

-They have to make WeChat "presentable" internationally, they means they can't appear to store it since they are beholden to China.

-They need to convey a message that they aren't watching you, but in reality their system needs to be monitored by Chinese police real time[1], since that rules out the option of E2E encryption, the only way is at least appear to be hands off.

[1]https://advox.globalvoices.org/2017/12/27/dont-call-xi-the-b...


> simply because all competitors are blocked.

International competitors may be. Till this day, I didn't see something come close to what WeChat is offering in China.

WeChat is like Chrome, it is so big and ubiquitous in China, it can dictate standard.

The online backup of messages itself is a pain point I agree, but local transfer is possible, though a bit cumbersome.


I think the international opinion is that there is no WeChat competitor in China because people are afraid to step on the toes of those in power. Chrome is enormous and ubiquitous because maintaining a modern browser is orders of magnitude more difficult than maintaining a chat application.

Why do you think there a many competitors outside China but none in?


> I think the international opinion is that there is no WeChat competitor in China because people are afraid to step on the toes of those in power

But how can there isn't a WeChat competitor, that actually does all the things WeChat is capable of in US/EU?

Regarding WeChat as if it is another chat application only means you have never been a regular user of it, which is probably true to most HN folks.

WeChat actually has its own embedded WebView within it and JS execution engine also. It also has the whole Paypal counterpart ships with it. The whole WeChat ecosystem is probably on par with the whole Facebook, probably more complex than Chrome I would say.


> But how can there isn't a WeChat competitor, that actually does all the things WeChat is capable of in US/EU?

For many reasons, but I think a major one is because neither EU nor US (both people and governments) would be cool with all aspects of one's life being functional ONLY by using this one app. Imagine if a WeChat competitor came out in EU/US, and now you cannot use transit without this app at all, or buy things, or get a taxi, etc.

This is extremely anti-competitive and goes even beyond the usual monopoly definition. Major politicians these days run for president on the promise to break down Amazon, Google, etc. And neither of those come even close to the monopolistic reach on the scale that WeChat operates on.


What you are saying is to provide an explanation why WeChat-like apps didn't and probably are not going to happen outside of China, but it still means there is NO WeChat alternatives outside China.

The reason is not that important however.

The Chinese market is unique, Western economy can't create something like WeChat doesn't mean that its existence is something abnormal.

Chinese companies create something more to the liking of Chinese consumers should get anyone surprised. When it comes to internet, and no one is enjoying natural advantage.


I understand WeChat is more comparable to Google services (webview, payments, maps, social platform, chat) in terms of scope, but in America, Google gets challenged in specific areas and loses, like losing social to Facebook after many social media platform attempts.

Why doesn't WeChat get more competitors in just a specific area, like chat, which is a lot simpler, so a company could potentially do it better than WeChat?

WeChat doesn't get that kind of competition in China at all, and it really looks like its because of the government.


Some WeChat competitors in China: Chat: Fetion, Doushan, Mi Talk; Social: Soul, Momo; Payment: Alipay, Huawei Pay, UnionPay QuickPass


I don't think there are competitors outside of china for wechat. In messaging space yes, but that's only one aspect of why wechat is popular in china. I don't know of anything anywhere that has the functionality and integration with everyday life that wechat has in China.

Maybe most people only see the outside of china version of wechat, which is primarily just chat. Inside china that's not the case.


WeChat Mini Programs (integrations / built-in "apps") usually aren't as rich as the equivalent standalone iOS / Android apps, but they benefit from WeChat's distribution platform and network effect.

Everything shared on WeChat usually deeplinks to the equivalent Mini Program within WeChat. These apps receive organic traffic through social sharing and can also enhance this through advertising on WeChat.

I do not see Chinese consumers switch apps much other than switching to video / streaming apps like 抖音 (TikTok) and gaming apps.


I think you're missing the point and the reason for the appeal of wechat. In China it's much more than just a messaging platform, and reality is most people don't care about notification standards and such.

I've used wechat expensively in China and I wish there was something like that in the US. Wechat just makes it so much easier to do somethings and has a nice integration with life. Some examples outside of messaging:

- payments obvious, but also ability to send money, split bills etc.

- Orders things. Either in person at restaurants, delivery or a ride

- The social media aspect. A lot of events, tickets etc are sent via wechat.


It would need to be introduced in a single large city in 2011 and spread from there with the implicit backing of the federal government.

It would not need a blockchain. There is no reason whatsoever for basing this on a blockchain.


But then we have to trust our government...

and governments vary in their trustworthiness


It does not matter whether you trust the government or not. The only thing that matters is whether you can resist the government or not.


He missed a point (and probably an important one for wechat's home market): CCP approval.

/snark


Definitely. Literally half of the features in the "What do we want?" section would get his replacement banned in the PRC, which is one of the few markets where WeChat is popular enough to even be something to replace.


And much more. Not going to through it all in detail, and there are probably many things I don’t know about WeChat since I’m not a heavy user living in mainland China.

The team definitely needs to get the experience of being behind the great firewall. Try using a VPN there to watch YouTube, try using a locally purchased cell phone without access to Google Play or the Apple app store. Try bashing PRC government policies in WeChat.

Only then will they see how tightly things are locked down. It's not like they're the only ones to have this idea, so why doesn't it exist? Oh, because it's really difficult and even dangerous with the current police state that controls the communications.


I would be interested in a we hat replacement, but as soon as I read ethereum I thought: nah. Cryptocurrencies are just not compatible with mainstream consumption. Why? Because I get paid in euros. And you might get paid in dollars. And a wechat user gets paid in Yuan. But nobody gets paid in ethereum.


That's not true anymore. I've been paided and knows others who continue to be paid in bitcoin.


>> But nobody gets paid in ethereum.

> That's not true anymore. I've been paided and knows others who continue to be paid in bitcoin.

The statement is true, if properly understood. Colloquially, "nobody gets paid in [cryptocurrency]" means that it's so unusual to get paid in it that it's reasonable to assume no one does. That's not a statement that can be shown to be false with a few counterexamples.


Seems like a silly article. Even if they had feature parity today, very few people would use the replacement because their friends aren't using it, their family aren't using it, the shops they want to buy from aren't using it, the people they meet aren't using it...


Exactly. Setting aside the issues of whether Google would be preferable to Facebook as a central "portal" like this, they ran into the exact same issue when they launched G+.

At the time it had feature parity (and in many cases, superiority) with Facebook, but even though loads of people already had Google accounts for Gmail or Docs, etc. they didn't want to post to both Facebook and G+.

Since everyone was on Facebook and less than everyone was on G+, it didn't matter that you could silo your contacts more easily, integrate voice/video chat, make online/in person payments, or maintain some semblance of a personal "page" in addition to just looking at an activity stream.

And as we've seen over and over, once something is seen as an "also-ran" or less popular option, it largely becomes a joke among the potential userbase and definitely not a success.


This i think, they are grossly overestimating how much people really care about privacy. To make the transition to a more private ecosystem etc. I'm still surprised why Facebook still has multiple apps for feed and chatting.

Because Friends and Family are still using Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram etc i also keep on using those apps. Im just navigating those app with the thought of they will probably save this somewhere.


WeChat is many things all in a single app:

  - A payments platform called WeChat Pay (think PayPal, Venmo, Apply Pay, Android Pay all combined)

  - A consumer messenger platform with voice and video chat (think Facebook Messenger + WhatsApp)

  - A friends newsfeed called Moments with audio and video support, external links but visibility of 
 content is timeboxed in days, weeks or months (think Facebook News Feed with a touch of Instagram Stories)

  - An e-commerce store platform called WeChat Store (think Shopify)

  - A business platform called "Official Accounts" with many features:

    * A business / bot messaging platform (think Facebook Messenger for Business)

    * An advertising platform

    * A content distribution platform, primarily through Official Account Subscription Accounts (like blogs, news, think Medium). WeChat offers this through "Channels", "Top Stories", "Official Accounts" and "Mini Programs".

    * WeChat Official Accounts Service Accounts can create "Mini Programs" which are rich integrations and tightly integrate with your linked WeChat Payments account, for example:

      1. Didi Chuxing for Ridesharing (Uber)

      2. Mobike for Bike Rental (Lime Bike etc)

      3. Meituan Dianping for e-commerce and food delivery

      4. Douban, Yishenghuo, Yoopay etc for Event / Concert Tickets (think Eventbrite, Ticketmaster)
Most noteworthy is that WeChat Mini Programs are standalone and don't deeplink to other apps. No aspect of WeChat does Deeplinking to any other app. You always stay in WeChat.


Surprised to see no Payments mentioned at all, which makes the post makes very little sense.

WeChat is also, and by large, a financial service. Payment and transfer is happening all the time on this platform, and to replace that is a magnitude difficult than just replace the chat.


You will probably never come up with the right answer for this question because the question itself is wrong. You never build a "WeChat replacement" by building a WeChat replacement. You just end up with a knockoff if you start from this question.


Spoiler alert: the answer is Blockchain according to the post.

Site is running slow, here's an archive: https://archive.is/w1HMt


This might be onpopular, but I don't think you should aim for "no censorship" and "no way for authority to police people". As we're seeing in today's social media, unfettered communication is not something you might want. Think of all the misinformation, trolling and conspiracy theories going on in our western social media _despite_ very heavy efforts to contain them by Facebook, Google and Twitter. This is biting us hard in our current crisis, where people are going as far as burning down 5G masts, thinking they are heros fighting against the government-ordered spread of Covid-19 [0]. The older I get, the more I start to think that the police fulfills a very fundamental function in our society, no matter how free that society thinks it is. And we likely do want some policing in our virtual worlds as well. Whatever the next social media is going to be (it seems to me that this is what you're trying to plan out here), it should include some sort of moderation option of some case.

[0] https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/10/technology/coronavirus-5g...


You don’t just build a product like WeChat or Facebook. You grow your product to that level.

What WeChat/Facebook are today is highly path-dependent hence you don’t get to replicate that, and your intelligence and ambition probably won’t let you either.

Stop try to replace them, build sth different and help people in a new and better way. With that, you might be able to transcend them.


Telegram was on a good path to become WeChat replacement, with its Telegram Open Network blockchain an Gram cryptocurrency coming and plans to add wide range of services including decentralized storage, web pages and payment channels. But now it looks that part has been killed by SEC, so the niche is still unoccupied.


Do you have more info about being killed by the SEC? I'm curious about this because I was looking forward to a Western Competitor to WeChat.


Sure:

* TON blog: https://ton-telegram.net/news/telegram-and-sec-asked-to-spee...

* nice summary of how US securities law affected TON (from October 2019): https://davidgerard.co.uk/blockchain/2019/10/13/sec-blocks-t...

* verdict in the case: https://www.reuters.com/article/legal-us-otc-telegram/sec-wi...

Some investors are considering launching independent blockchain based on open-sourced TON technology. But even if they do, it's not clear when is Telegram going to integrate wallet with their app, if ever.


Great summary.

I'm very biased (active developer in Telegram ecosystem), but I'm having a hard time imagining Durov letting this SEC case stop him.

Even if he has to return all the funds, I'm confident he will still push forward and bring TON and Grams into production.

It's less of a straight path, but Durov's smart and stubborn - two valuable traits in this circumstace.


WeChat's dominance in Chinese social media is mainly due to its close relationship with CCP. It would be a different story if the market was open to west tech companies. Talking about a censorship resistant social media in China is completely a waste of time.


This technology has a lot of potential. I have played around with Status for a while and it has a real potential to surpass the safety functionalities of Telegram and Signal.


LINE, whatsapp etc are catching up wechat.

Instead of cloning wechat, an alternative would be developing a proxy between IM apps, i.e. all wechat messages can be forwarded to whatsapp so it become part of whatsapp, well, kind of, it's painful to use whatsapp, LINE, telegram, wechat at the same time, need something to "unite" them so we can go to one place and do it all.


Chat vendors have no incentive to support standards based interoperability. They all want to leverage network effects to maximize switching costs and keep users confined to their walled gardens. The only way to break this would probably be government mandates.


Wasn't XMPP supposed to do something like that?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/XMPP#Connecting_to_other_proto...


XMPP does it, Matrix does it: https://matrix.org/bridges/

...honestly most of the open chat protocols end up with bridges since it's easier to do there than with the proprietary ones. WhatsApp for example will ban you if they see you trying to connect with a third-party client; using the Matrix bridge actually involves running Android with the official client in a VM.


100% not true. Who accepts payments using Line in china?

Wechat was doing 1 billion transactions PER DAY. Revenue for 2019 from fintech (wechat pay etc) was up something like 30% + (100B RMB?)

All these competitors "catching up" to wechat - I mean, is line even profitable or at similar scale?


1. Government approval (the ability to record and snoop on all conversations) 2. Wechat would have to lose government approval.


WeChat is a not a chat app. It's a micro universe. Imagine WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Paypal, Uber, etc. and an entire app platform all integrated into a single app. That's WeChat.


This is what facebook wanted to do when they launched their APIa long time ago, never came to pass. WeChat did it. Its a whole operating system in itself.


I only skim read this, but it feels like you could swap "WeChat" for any messaging system or social networking site


That's definitely not true. WeChat has a bunch of ecommerce stuff built in among other features. You can pay for stuff on WeChat and there are stores. It even has translation built in to facilitate buying and selling between people from different countries.

I think there are also apps and other stuff there too. It's more like a chat app that became an ecommerce and mini-app platform.


It's similar with KakaoTalk in Korea, which now also has a payment system in addition to acting as a regular bank, and allows you to buy various things including, say, hairdresser appointments. 93% smartphone market share.


Kakao has a separate app for everything. Quite different from WeChat. KakaoTalk, KakaoTaxi, KakaoPay etc etc

I wouldn't say that those are all extremely well integrated with each other.


Sorta both - the hairdresser booking and other commerce is in the main messenger app.


Also Line, which is also used in many parts of East Asia.


Facebook also has all of this, though I conceed that it doesn't have a built in user to user payments solution... Yet.


Chinese govt (firewall) and people of China


Feature #1: Censorship circumvention.


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