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.
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