WeChat Isn't a Messaging App - A Closer Look at China's Hottest App
December 27, 2013
My parents currently live in China and they, like pretty much all of China nowadays, actively use WeChat. The last year, I've used WeChat more and more to communicate with them, but I could never understand why they and so many others were so drawn to WeChat over alternative messaging apps like iMessage. Despite a clunky interface, slow load times, and a design language that feels more 2008 than 2013, WeChat's Chinese adoption numbers have been off the charts, with over 400 million worldwide users and no signs of slowing in Asia.
I'm currently home in China for the holidays and I've had some time to observe how my parents are using WeChat, how my sister is using it, and how strangers on the street and on the subway are using it. What I've seen has definitely surprised me.
Most importantly, I've noticed that WeChat isn't a messaging app. I had originally thought that messaging was the main focus of WeChat. Instead, it performs a role best described as an interesting blend between messaging, social gaming, Twitter, and Facebook.
For a lot of people, WeChat is the start and end of their phone usage. Need to talk to someone? Send them a text message or leave them a voice message. Want to see what your friends are up to? Go to "Moments", where you can view a stream of their activity and post an update of your own. Want to play games? Play from within WeChat.
"Moments" is probably the most used feature of the app. It's basically a social network that lies adjacent to the app's basic messaging features, where users have profiles where they can post photos and statuses and change their profile pictures and cover photos. Like Facebook, you can publicly like and comment on posts. However, the "Moments" feature is buried two levels deep, much like how Twitter's direct messaging functionality was before the most recent update (version 6). To get to it, you have to first enter the Discover tab and before seeing others use it, I had personally never visited it.
The reason why WeChat is doing so well, though, is because its other features are definitely not ignored. WeChat, as an app, is very versatile, leading to insanely high user retention. Its chatting and messaging features, complete with chat backgrounds and stickers, have found popularity amongst the QQ crowd that provided the initial traction for WeChat (it's interesting to note that QQ and WeChat are both owned by the same company, Tencent, and that they successfully leveraged this existing userbase to launch WeChat). The messaging features serve as a replacement for email, texting, and IM. Like WhatsApp, a lot of people are opting to replace their traditional SMS plans with more data and using WeChat to fill in the gap. Throw in the network effect, and even those that don't choose to forego SMS find themselves on WeChat more and more as well in order to interact with their friends.
Hold to talk on WeChat
But it isn't just text messaging that is helping to drive WeChat's user retention. I was pretty surprised by how popular the walkie talkie (push-to-talk) feature is for communication, which I believe stems from how difficult it is to enter Chinese characters on a phone. It's not uncommon to see people walking down the street or on the subway, speaking in quick 2 to 3 second bursts on their WeChat accounts. Instead of calling one another, a lot of Chinese people choose to use these walkie talkie conversations, giving them the benefits of asynchronous communication coupled with the power of voice. I'm also suspecting that more and more people are starting to substitute their phone service with WeChat's walkie talkie feature as well, making an average Chinese user's phone plan pretty heavily focused on 3G data.
WeChat has grown so quickly because of its versatility and all-encompassing nature. I'd guess that the only app a lot of people in China use is, in fact, WeChat. My cousins and my family agree. Tencent would probably agree as well.
Tencent is hedging its bets that WeChat can and will own the entire Chinese Internet market. Just yesterday, they've launched Weixin TV, a smart TV completely integrated into WeChat, yet another expansion of the WeChat feature base. Instead of focusing on any one particular product and making it better, they've decided to throw literally everything under the WeChat umbrella.
This, precisely, is why I believe WeChat will not find the same success in the American market. What Chinese consumers are looking for is an all-inclusive piece of software that does everything they could ever want, whereas American consumers would rather split time between multiple apps in order to get the best possible user experience. In China, where it really is a winner-take-all situation, this isn't a bad development strategy, but the Western market is entirely different, where I don't see WeChat gaining mass adoption, at least in its current state. WeChat is part-Facebook, part-Twitter, part-Instagram, part-Tumblr, part-WhatsApp, part-Skype -- it does a lot, but it doesn't do anything exceptionally well. If WeChat wants to seriously compete in the American market, it will have to not only beat pure messaging apps like WhatsApp and iMessage, but also (and most importantly!) everything else that has been thrown into the mix.
Instead, it performs a role
(that is) best described
as an interesting blend
between messaging, social gaming, Twitter and Facebook
대신 그것은 역할을 수행한다.
(그 역할은) 가장 잘 묘사한다
메세징, 소셜게이밍, 트위터와 페이스북 사이에서의
It's basically a social network
that lies adjacent to the app's basic messaging features,
where users have profiles
where they can post photos and statuses and change their profile pictures and cover photos.
이것은 기본적으로 소셜 네트웍이다.
그 소셜 네트웍은 앱의 기본 메세징 기능과 인접해 놓여있다
(그 메세징 기능은) 사용자가 프로필을 가지고 있는 (곳 이다)
(그 프로필은) 그들이 사진과 상태를 포스트 할 수 있고, 그들의 프로필 이미지와 커버사진을 바꿀 수 있는 (곳 이다)
→ adjacent : 인접한
why WeChat is doing so well
its other features are definitely not ignored.
이유(왜 WeChat이 그렇게 잘되는지)는 때문이다(위쳇의 다른 기능들이 전혀 간과되지 않았기 때문이다.
→ 이 문장의 경우 why, because가 주어 동사를 이끄는 접속사 역할을 하고 있다.
→ though는 주어 동사를 이끌고 있지 않으므로 부사로 해석하는것이 맞다.
→ 특히 이렇게 쉼표에 쌓인 though는 앞문장과 관련 있다고 보는게 더 맞다.
→ though를 똑 떼어서 문장의 맨 앞으로 보내고, 그 앞문장 연결시켜 보는것이 좋다.
→ definitely 만약 부사의 해석이 애매하고 명확하지 않을 때 부사를 빼서 맥락상 의미가 통한다면 부사를 빼고 명확하게 이해하는것도 방법이다.
as an app,
is very versatile,
leading(= which leads) to insanely high user retention.
(그 다재다능함이) 유별나게 높은 사용자 보유에 이르게 했다.
→ leading to insanely high user retention은 부사구로 다음과 같이 바꿀 수 있다.
→ That leads to insanely high user retention. 앞에 관계대명사 that(=which)이 versatile를 부가적으로 설명해 주고 있다.
this existing userbase
→ this userbase + existing userbase : 이 사용자 기반 + 기존의 사용자 기반
→ 기존에 존재하는 이 스킨에서 시작해서 당신만의 스킨을 만들어 보세요. (영작해 보세요)
→ Make your own skin starting from this existing skin.
from how difficult it is to enter Chinese characters on a phone.
핸드폰에 한자를 넣는것이 얼마나 어려운지로부터
→ 이 문장은 다음과 같이 써볼 수 있다
→ I believe which sterms from (A) : 나는 which가 (A)로부터 연유한다고 생각한다.
→ 그러니 위의 문장 which I believe stems from (A)는 다음과 같이 해석할 수 있다.
→ (A)로부터 연유하는 which (내가 믿기에)
What Chinese consumers are looking for
is an all-inclusive piece of software
that does everything
they could ever want,
whereas American consumers
would rather split time
between multiple apps
in order to get the best possible user experience
중국 소비자들이 원하는 것은
모든것을 담고 있는 소프트웨어
(그 소프트웨어는) 모든것을 해준다
반면 미국 소비자들은
시간을 쪼개는것을 더 좋아한다
여러 앱들 사이에
더 나은 사용자 경험을 위해서
but the Western market
is entirely different,
where I don't see WeChat gaining mass adoption
그러나 웨스턴 마켓은
(그리고 이곳에서)나는 위쳇이 엄청난 채택율을 달성하리라 보지 않는다.
→ 여기서 where 는 in the Western market를 말하고 있다.