New apps declare ‘war’ on WeChat, but analysts see defeat
Published: Jan 15, 2019 10:13 PM

Douyin launches video-based social messaging app Duoshan at a press conference in Beijing on Tuesday. Photo: VCG

Three new Chinese web warriors on Tuesday coincidentally declared war on Tencent-owned WeChat, the nation's most popular messaging app. 

While the announcements by the new social networking apps all on the same day drew the interest of industry watchers and ordinary users, a genuine shift into any WeChat substitutes remains a tough if not impossible sell, according to those interviewed by the Global Times. 

The day began with the morning launch of an app called MatongMT, literally closestoolMT, by Shenzhen Ringle Artificial Intelligence Technology Co. The start-up was founded in February 2018 by Wang Xin, a controversial pioneer of China's online video-streaming market, around the time of his release from prison. Wang served three and a half years behind bars for distributing obscene materials for personal gain, the Xinhua News Agency reported. 

The hilariously named app, which features anonymous networking, can be downloaded onto Android phones, but as of press time it had yet to be shown in Apple's App Store.

Later in the day came Duoshan, a standalone video-based social messaging app from short video app Douyin. Beijing Bytedance Technology is the parent company of Douyin and popular news aggregator Jinri Toutiao. 

Finally, there was Beijing Kuairu Technology, the start-up behind Bullet Messenger, a fast-rising voiced-based messaging upstart created by internet celebrity Luo Yonghao, which introduced a new networking product known as Liaotianbao. 

Saying that a life without WeChat would be unimaginable, Jiang Yun, a tech lover in Nanjing, East China's Jiangsu Province, said that she might try out the new apps to see if they offer any unusual or amusing features. But she was downbeat about the chance of any of the three supplanting WeChat.

"Even Alipay couldn't beat WeChat," the woman in her late 20s said, adding that she doesn't know many people who communicate via Alipay.

Those apps do not have the ability to compete head-to-head with WeChat, which has more than 1 billion daily active users, plus a social networking empire, said Liu Dingding, a Beijing-based industry analyst. "They're not starting a war on WeChat, they're committing suicide," Liu noted. 

Specifically, MatongMT, due to its anonymous features and the short history of its chat group, could involve high-stakes of spreading illegal content by anonymous sources, which will be targeted by Chinese law enforcement officials.

As for Liaotianbao, Liu said that he did not see any difference between the social networking app and the instant messaging Bullet Message that Luo created last year. 

"Despite creating a huge buzz at its debut, Bullet Message flopped silently. Luo had better be hoping that his fame lures more users to download the app this time."

However, there are still chances for Kuaishan to challenge WeChat in a completely different sector of the social networking market - short videos - based on its overwhelming edge in big data technology, marketing channels and user traffic, industry analysts said. 

"Toutiao could use its knock-out products, such as popular short video platform Douyin and news aggregating app Toutiao to bring traffic to the app," Liu explained