So why should people outside of China even care about We Chat?
The first and most obvious reason is that it points to where Facebook and other messaging apps could head.
This empowers developers to deliver distinctive, custom app-like experiences while We Chat enforces the rules (messaging frequency, sensor permissions, etc.) that protect users.
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It was launched just 4 years ago by Chinese investment holding company Tencent, one of the largest internet companies in the world.
As of earlier this year, We Chat had 549 million monthly active users (MAUs) among over one billion registered users, almost all of them in Asia.
(And while this post is not focusing on design, it is worth noting that Chinese apps tend to combine as many features as possible into one application.
This is in stark contrast to Western apps, which lean towards “app constellations”.) Philosophically, while Facebook and Whats App measure growth by the number of daily and monthly active users on their networks, We Chat cares more about how relevant and central We Chat is in addressing the daily, even hourly needs of its users.
Ultimately, however, We Chat should matter to all of us because it shows what’s possible when an entire country — which currently has a smartphone penetration of 62% (that’s almost 1/3 of its population) — “leapfrogs” over the PC era directly to mobile.