QQ’s not dead: 861 million users - China’s latest business and technology news - SupChina

QQ’s not dead: 861 million users – China’s latest business and technology news

About a year ago, the market capitalization of Tencent, the company behind WeChat, reached $246.35 billion, topping U.S.-listed Alibaba’s $242.04 billion to become China’s biggest internet firm by that metric. The two behemoths are likely to vie for the top spot — whether measured by user numbers, revenue, or market cap — for some time to come. In third place by many metrics is Baidu, and there are always new entrants snapping at their heels such as ecommerce runner-up JD.com, China ride-hailing king Didi Chuxing, and on-demand biking startups Mobike and Ofo.  

But just as Alibaba’s dominance of ecommerce and leading position in payments is perhaps unassailable, Tencent has a dominance of Chinese social media that is nearly impossible to challenge. Tencent is much bigger than WeChat — the service the company has become best known for — as TechNode points out:

  • The QQ messaging platform for PCs was Tencent’s original product for desktop computers, and was China’s most popular social networking service for the first decade of the 21st century.
  • In the first quarter of 2017, WeChat, growing its monthly active user (MAU) numbers at 23 percent a year, became the country’s most popular social platform with 938 million MAUs to overtake QQ, which declined 2 percent to 861 million MAUs in the same period.
  • Instead of competing with WeChat, QQ has repositioned itself to be a “one-stop entertainment portal” for young Chinese: “We are transforming QQ from a pure messaging app into one that supports chatting, sharing, interest groups, and digital content like games, anime, literature, music, live streaming, and so on,” a Tencent spokesperson has said.
  • QQ’s demographic is young: “60% of all QQ users were born after 1990.”

Although there is no doubt that Tencent has a massive user base, you should, of course, treat all numbers with a pinch of salt. To illustrate that, Caixin notes that the number of internet users in China has risen to a total 751 million according to a report from China Internet Network Information Center (CINIC), the government body that compiles internet stats. That’s 110 million fewer users than Tencent claims for QQ.

Jeremy Goldkorn

Jeremy Goldkorn worked in China for 20 years as an editor and entrepreneur. He is editor-in-chief of SupChina, and co-founder of the Sinica Podcast.