WeChat is a Chinese multi-purpose messaging, social media and mobile payment app developed by Tencent. It was first released in 2011, and became one of the world’s largest standalone mobile apps in 2018, with over 1 billion monthly active users.
WeChat has been described as China’s “app for everything” and a “super app” because of its wide range of functions. Due to its popularity, user activity on WeChat is used for mass surveillance in China. WeChat also censors politically sensitive topics in China.
WeChat had over 889 million monthly active users in 2016. As of 2019, WeChat’s monthly active users have increased to an estimate of one billion. After the launch of WeChat payment in 2013, its users reached 400 million the next year, 90 percent of whom were in China. By comparison, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp (two other competitive international messaging services better known in the West) had about one billion monthly active users in 2016 but did not offer most of the other services available on WeChat. For example, in Q2 2017, WeChat’s revenues from social media advertising were about US$0.9 billion (RMB6 billion) compared to Facebook’s total revenues of US$9.3 billion, 98% of which were from social media advertising. WeChat’s revenues from its value-added services were US$5.5 billion.
According to SimilarWeb, WeChat was the most popular messaging app in China and Bhutan in 2016.