In 2011, a little-known tech-forward organization decided it was a great idea to develop an app that very much came off as the unlikely twin of WhatsApp. The contrivance was even odder on the grounds that the chatting platform was launched two full years after WhatsApp came into existence. Jan Koum’s instant messaging platform was already a performer but it still seemed fitting to a certain internet firm to tailor something similar for a particular market.
That organization? China’s Tencent. And the chatting app? China’s WeChat. At the time, launching an app with the makings of a “WhatsApp clone” didn’t turn heads.
But a few years later, the way Tencent started pulling strings lifted the lid on the grand and ambitious plan for what initially felt to be “a normal chatting platform”. WeChat did not just become WhatsApp’s biggest threat in China but also became a strong reference point for envisaging the dynamics of the super app industry.
WeChat, basically, is Facebook, Uber, Venmo, GrubHub, Craigslist, and a bunch of other popular app-based services in one place, for China. Sometimes called the “ecosystem for ecosystems”, WeChat easily became an integral part of Chinese life. With the smartphone app, people can socialize, order groceries, book rides, and schedule doctor appointments.