How can I find Chinese friends online
The WeChat app - The Chinese wonder app with a hook
Facebook, Netflix, Instagram, WhatsApp, Spotify, YouTube, Pinterest, Xing, Twitter - this is just a small list of social networks that we all know and use almost every day.
Around 3.58 billion people around the world use social media to exchange ideas, obtain information or chat. Facebook and its subsidiaries Instagram and WhatsApp cover most of this. As of the third quarter of 2018, the company founded by Mark Zuckerberg has around 2.3 billion active users worldwide and is at the forefront of the most actively used social networks. In comparison: YouTube has 1.6 billion and WhatsApp 1.5 billion active users worldwide.
This trend can be seen all over the world - with the exception of China. In China, one social service is used primarily: WeChat.
WeChat has a comparable, if not more powerful, position in Asia than Facebook in the rest of the world. This is also due to the fact that Facebook, Twitter and Co. are under censorship in China and WeChat is therefore without competition. As of the 3rd quarter of 2018, the social network had almost 1.1 billion monthly active users.
The WeChat success story
WeChat (which translates as “tiny message”) was launched in January 2011 and is operated by the Chinese internet giant Tencent. The messenger, which is very similar to the then popular ICQ and today's WhatsApp, was initially only designed for the Asian region. However, the breakthrough came with the introduction of voice messages. The developers built a convenient alternative for the laborious typing of Chinese characters, which quickly made the social network popular and was used by around 76% of the Chinese population by 2015. WeChat was originally only available in Chinese. The news service now supports the most common languages.
Apps and Mini-Apps - What sets WeChat apart from other messenger services
Another reason for the great popularity of the social network is the huge selection of mini programs that are offered within the WeChat app. To explain: in the western world the principle of the native app is more common. Be it bank, traffic or newspaper, most service providers bring out their own applications for mobile devices, which are then limited to a few functions. So it is normal for us to have an abundance of different apps for different needs on our smartphones.
It is different with WeChat: here the app itself functions as a native app with a multitude of functions. In addition, functions from external service providers can then be added and embedded. On the one hand, this has the advantage for users that they no longer have to switch back and forth between apps. On the other hand, you save a lot of storage space and you no longer have to download and install individual applications yourself.
WeChat's most popular features
The versatility of the areas of application seems limitless. On the one hand, WeChat offers countless everyday functions: phone calls, send (voice) messages, post pictures, rent a bike, book trips, buy a cinema ticket, reserve a table in your favorite restaurant, check out the latest offers, make a doctor's appointment and much more.
On the other hand, WeChat also offers service providers the opportunity to strengthen customer loyalty or customer loyalty through mini programs. It is even possible to offer your own maintenance or customer service within WeChat with the help of suitable programs.
In short, WeChat offers a solution to almost every problem in almost every area of life.
One of the most powerful functions of WeChat is the integrated payment method. If you want to give money to a friend but have no cash with you, or if you have to pay your online bill, you would use services such as PayPal or Klarna in this country.
WeChat offers the possibility to link your account directly to your bank account and thus enables quick and easy payment. This payment method can also be used for daily shopping. For example, if you want to buy a coffee at a trusted kiosk in China, all you need to do is scan the QR code provided and confirm the payment. Of course, this also applies to restaurants. In some, even the food can be ordered and paid for at the table using a QR code.
With the introduction of smartphone payment, WeChat made sure that fewer and fewer people reach for cash.
Call a cab
Another useful mini-program is the taxi finder. This function makes it possible to find the location of the closest taxi and contact it via WeChat. As soon as the vehicle has arrived at the agreed location, you will be notified via the messenger.
If you are new to the city and want to get to know people, there is also a solution for this. If you open the corresponding function, you only have to perform a shaking gesture with your mobile phone. If another person in the vicinity has also made this movement at the same time, these two people will be introduced to each other via the app and can get in touch.
Shopping, offers and advertising
WeChat also offers assistance when shopping: When buying new pants, you can use the scanned QR code to find out whether the same product is available at a lower price in an online shop or another store. If this is the case, WeChat will direct you to the respective website or the app will open a navigation system and guide the customer to the relevant store via the fastest route.
Even putting a piece of clothing back is possible via the app and can be done very comfortably from home.
The disadvantage of WeChat: data protection is non-existent
From the above examples it is clear that WeChat offers incredible added value for its users and that it is so popular for understandable reasons. However, the use of WeChat also has a big catch: data protection. In 2016, Amnesty International compiled a ranking in this regard, in which the providers of the most popular messengers were rated in terms of data protection. The Chinese service was in last place - with 0 out of 100 possible points. Facebook secured first place in 2016 with 73 out of 100 points. It's no secret that Tencent works with the Chinese government and shares its users' personal data.
The current data protection guidelines state:
We share your data with selected recipients who have the legal basis and responsibility to request such data. These categories of recipients include: government agencies, public authorities, regulators, courts and law enforcement agencies ... we share your personal data within our group of companies ....
The reason for the survey is: "To provide WeChat, ... and to be able to use the functions of the WeChat Open Platform." Due to the way WeChat works, masses of personal data about user behavior are stored and passed on.
In a country like China, where all competing messenger services are banned, citizens have no choice but to agree to data protection regulations. Not using WeChat would entail major social disadvantages for the individual.
WeChat is changing the consumer behavior of an entire society
What was ridiculed for a long time as a cheap imitation of Facebook and WhatsApp is perhaps the most successful and revolutionary social network today. The Tencent app is not just an application for exchanging ideas with friends or sharing holiday pictures. WeChat is changing the consumer behavior of an entire society. From cashless payment to getting to know each other via the shake function.
WeChat is omnipresent and connects the analog world with the digital. The versatility of functions, from which the competition should surely be inspired, is what makes the Chinese social network so attractive.
When it comes to data protection, you should still be sensible and keep your hands off WeChat. Protecting private data has to be a top priority. Because even if you have nothing to hide, you should always be the one who has full control over your data. You should decide for yourself with whom, when and whether you want to share your data.
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