One of the largest messaging apps in the world isn’t based in the United States, it’s based in China. With more than one billion active users, WeChat is the fourth largest social media platform on earth, behind Facebook, WhatsApp, and QQ.
First released in 2011, WeChat offers social media, messaging, and online payments. It was developed by Tencent, a multinational investment company that has holding in entertainment, artificial intelligence, and digital resources.
App for Everything
WeChat is more than just a messaging app, it’s a one-stop-shop for just about every service needed by the average user. It’s been called a Super App because it offers such a wide range of functionality for users.
The WeChat app allows users to send payments to one another. The payment program within WeChat is so large that it’s considered to be a potential rival to companies like Visa and Mastercard. The function is incorporated automatically into the account of every user when they sign up for the WeChat messaging service.
There are options to book doctor’s appointments and pay for groceries, to create budgets and manage personal finances built into WeChat. There’s even a Heat Map that shows users crowd density information in cities.
WeChat is working on the development of virtual reality and augmented reality software to incorporate into its services. Mapping technology and 3D rendering are essential functions of this service.
The massive popularity of WeChat has led to its being used for mass surveillance by the Chinese government. This issue has brought up multiple concerns regarding informational freedom within the country.
Chinese law has provisions for strong censorship and surveillance. Chat histories, search queries, location histories, and even payments can all be watched by the Chinese government.
This is particularly an issue as WeChat expands to neighboring markets like India.
Amnesty International has given the country a score of zero out of one hundred for its encryption and privacy services. Human rights activist Hu Jia was jailed in China for sedition, and it is widely suspected that the government used his WeChat messages as a means to uncover his words against the government.
The Chinese government has actively participated in the development of WeChat from its inception. As such, WeChat engages widely in censorship. This is not just an issue for Chinese users, but globally as well.
WeChat has grown year over year, pushing its way into neighboring markets and expanding its services.
The company has pushed further into the marketplace through advertisements. British Airways, Burberry, L’Oreal, and eBay have all partnered with WeChat to promote its services internationally. The company has partnered with sixty Italian companies through its office in Milan to sell products and services through the site.
WeChat is available on all major platforms and continues to expand its services, despite security concerns stemming from its surveillance and censorship practices. The functionality of the application and its incredible usability continue to be backbones of its success.