RELEASED January 18, 2019
In episode 35 of Tech Buzz China, co-hosts Ying-Ying Lu and Rui Ma talk about competitors to the reigning Chinese social media champion, WeChat. Specifically, they focus on three apps that all decided to launch on Tuesday, January 15, 2019, two weeks before Chinese New Year: Bytedance’s Duoshan, Wang Xin’s self-proclaimed “anti-WeChat” Toilet, and Bullet Messenger 2.0. Following their releases, WeChat promptly blocked links to all three. Our co-hosts ask: Does WeChat have a reason to be scared? Why was it so defensive? Is there truly a chance for any of these companies to topple Allen Zhang’s miraculous creation? And if so, how would that come about?
Rui and Ying-Ying begin by giving their perspective on WeChat’s two main weaknesses. The first is its decreasing representation of young users, specifically, teenagers — a challenge that many other social networks that have been around for a while, including Facebook, also face. The second is the emergence of WeChat Moments as a battleground for user time. This development is a function of the intermingling of personal and professional relationships within one app, and the ensuing messy social graph that WeChat has accumulated.
Our co-hosts go on to explain that all three of the apps that were launched this week tried to capitalize on one of the opportunities WeChat leaves open. They describe each product in more detail, delving into them in descending probability of success. Rui and Ying-Ying’s top pick is Bytedance’s Duoshan. They discuss: In what ways has the product stayed true to its short-video roots? How accurate is the Toutiao insider description of the app as a combination of “Snapchat’s framework” plus “Instagram and Messenger’s GIF function” and “Apple Watch’s heartbeat”? Does it truly solve an organic user problem?
As for Toilet, which proudly calls itself “the social network dark web,” just how reminiscent is it of the bygone Secret app in the U.S.? What is the opportunity that its founder sees in anonymous social networking, which, in fact, already exists in China, including in QQ itself?
In third place is celebrity-investor-backed Bullet Messenger’s 2.0 version. It has renamed itself Chat Bao (聊天宝 liáotiān bǎo) and rebranded with a new logo, an image of a smiling gold ingot. The ingot serves as an apt reflection of the app’s new positioning as a portal for poorer users who seek to make some money or find great deals. Rui and Ying-Ying argue that its main competitive advantage is its marketing and aggressive, gamified user acquisition tactics.
Listen to find out: What do Rui and Ying-Ying conclude about each of these new entrants, and why? As always, you can find these stories and more at pandaily.com.
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