In a world where social media has become almost ubiquitous, China represents one of the most interesting and unique cases of its usage. The sheer size of the country and the plethora of different social platforms have made it difficult for anyone social media service to gain a decisive lead in the country. While WeChat is the most popular messaging app in the country, more than half of the time spent on mobile devices is on the games-focused platforms like mobile game chat application WeChat Games, which has more than 200 million registered users. It is no surprise, then, that Chinese social media is a hotbed for new ideas and fresh content. From messaging apps to video-centric social networks, here is an overview of the major social media platforms in China.
The key players in the Chinese social media space are represented by their respective company logos, shown below:
WeChat, owned by Tencent, is by far the most popular social media app in China. With a user base of over 845 million as of June 30, 2018, it dwarfs its nearest competitors, namely Instagram and Snapchat. Over 800 million of WeChat’s user base are said to be active monthly users, of which there are more men than women. It is also one of the most widely used social media applications outside of China, with an estimated 400 million users outside of China.
In China, however, WeChat is much more than a social media application. It is not only the most popular mobile
What is WeChat?
WeChat is a messaging platform used by nearly half of the Chinese population. It lets users create and view multiple accounts, send and receive photos, videos, stickers, and personalized notes, make payments and book reservations, the whole deal is accessible via a companion app for mobiles or the web. What’s more, WeChat is not only a messaging app. It also acts as a platform for games, business tools, and other financial transactions, making it an all-in-one communication and utility app.
WhatsApp in China
WhatsApp was blocked in China in February 2019, over two years after it was banned in the country. The decision came after intense lobbying by Chinese tech companies, including Tencent, which owns WeChat. At the time of the ban, the influential state-run publication China Daily reported that WhatsApp had only 450 million users in China, which was around half of what it had in India. The paper also noted that WeChat was “more popular than ever”, with its “constant growth” providing justification for the government’s decision.
What is Douyin?
Similar to TikTok and Musical.ly, Douyin is a short-video-focused social network that allows users to create, share, and watch videos. Users can also create and share “documents”, or stickers, which have overtaken the platform as its main attraction. According to a report, Douyin has more than 700 million registered users and more than 100 million daily active users (DAUs).
What is Toutiao?
As the “funniest videos” app, Toutiao is a news and entertainment app that publishes viral content in an algorithmically-generated format. The app’s front page is dominated by headlines and user-generated content, with Toutiao’s data team manually curating the trending stories. Toutiao grew out of Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province, where it was founded in 2015 by three Yunnan-based entrepreneurs.
What is Weibo?
Weibo is a microblogging platform that offers a wide range of functionality, including the ability to send photos and videos, as well as short and longer messages. The platform has more than 400 million monthly active users, the majority of whom are reported to be reading rather than posting content. Weibo is blocked in China, but it is still used by expatriates and others who want to communicate with the country’s large Chinese diaspora.
What is Douban?
A film-focused social network and multimedia platform, Douban was launched in 2007 and is still going strong. Users can create their own content and share it with the Douban community, view and add to user-generated content, and access Douban’s massive library of user-generated content. Like many other social media platforms in China, Douban is blocked in the country.
What is Momo?
Momo is a messaging app with a difference. It is primarily targeted at children, with most of its content consisting of stickers, icons, and videos designed to keep children entertained. The platform has over 200 million registered users and is used by parents to communicate with their children, as well as by kids to communicate with their parents.
In a country that is only now embracing the benefits of social media, China presents an interesting case study. With so many different platforms to choose from, it is no surprise that each one has carved out a distinct niche in the Chinese social media landscape. The centralization of the internet, as well as the robust censorship apparatus of the Chinese government, have made it difficult for anyone platform to gain a decisive lead in the country.
That said, WeChat dominates the messaging app segment, WhatsApp is used for messaging friends and family, and other top social media apps in China include Weibo, Toutiao, and Douyin. These apps are quickly becoming key global social platforms, and they can all be found on this list.