WeChat’s wild popularity comes down to solving problems simply

The China-based messaging app WeChat has seen phenomenal growth over its brief five-and-a-half-year history, having recently passed 700 million monthly active users.

What makes it so popular? As a writeup in The Economist observed, quoting a U.S. venture capitalist, Tencent’s WeChat is there for its users “at every point of your daily contact with the world, from morning until night.”

Everyone from enterprise customers to preschoolers too young to operate cellphones can use WeChat to communicate with others, pay for purchases, play games, track expenses, schedule doctor’s appointments, share music and a host of other activities… all from a single platform. The app enjoys a level of user devotion even Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg would envy. (Facebook has yet to launch in China.)

“More than a third of all the time spent by mainlanders on the mobile internet is spent on WeChat,” The Economist reported. “A typical user returns to it ten times a day or more.”

What accounts for WeChat’s wild popularity? As The Economist puts it, “it solves problems for its users.”

In addition to the wide variety of tasks it lets users on the go handle, the app makes those tasks easy, convenient and even fun. Just read some of the reasons identified on Quora:

  • “The registration and signing up process is super easy. You just only need to give your mobile number and it will configure everything.”
  • “[I]t fits the flattering culture there that people like to have different circles, or quan zi, and show off each other’s ‘high level’ circle, as the society is at the moment of splitting social classes.”
  • “[Y]ou don’t need to type, you can just send a voice recording… Now you don’t even need to be fully literate to use WeChat.”
  • “WeChat is a brilliant piece of software which is gradually taking over the entire Chinese mobile internet. You can now do practically anything within WeChat (and pay for it), while the core functions of messaging and microblogging remain extremely easy… [I]t’s like asking why Google is popular — because it’s awesome.”

That innovative blend of brilliant and simple, will “change the mobile internet for everyone — those outside China included,” The Economist concluded, “as Western firms do their all to emulate its success.”

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