China’s most popular messaging app, WeChat, has always had a close relationship with the Chinese government.
“For all intents and purposes WeChat is your phone, and to a far greater extent in China than anywhere else, your phone is everything,” wrote Ben Thompson, consultant and founder of the blog Stratechery.
“There is nothing in any other country that is comparable: not LINE, not WhatsApp, not Facebook.”
Founded in 2011 and owned by Tencent, along with other Chinese tech giants Alibaba and Baidu, WeChat has 902 million daily users, and about 38 billion messages are sent on the platform every day.
Last year, Tencent added mini-apps to WeChat, creating an app store of sorts: inside WeChat, you can play games, pay bills, find local hangouts, book doctor appointments, file police reports, hail taxis, hold video conferences, and access bank services.
WeChat’s dominance is aided by the government, which has censored Facebook Messenger since 2009, blocked the South Korean-owned Line app in 2015, and banned WhatsApp last year.