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The Leading Three Chinese Messaging Applications

Email, Facebook Chat, and WeMessage could be the primary means of contact we all employ in the west. Nevertheless, in China, the Great Wall of Fire has fostered the development of a distinct Chinese messaging application. While the Chinese Messaging marketplace has been dormant for a period, fresh rivals have emerged that may potentially alter the Chinese messaging app scenario. In this piece, we’ll delve into:

Chinese Messaging Application Scenario 

The Chinese Messaging Application scene kicked off with the initiator of Tencent, Pony Ma. In the late ’90s, Pony Ma first encountered one of the earliest messaging applications on the internet, ICQ, established by an Israeli enterprise back in 1996. Despite its global popularity, the service had little to no presence in Chinese chat.

Ma and his Shenzhen-based team promptly recognized the potential in launching a Chinese messaging application. In 1999, Pony Ma introduced OICQ (Open ICQ). After a legal dispute with AOL, the service would eventually transform into Tencent QQ, the inaugural Chinese Instant Messenger to attain mainstream status.

Open ICQ was instigated by Pony Ma due to the absence of other prevalent Chinese Chatting Apps following a lawsuit by AOL. OICQ was rebranded to Tencent QQ and emerged as the primary mainstream Chinese chat app.

Open ICQ (Tencent QQ) – The Pioneer Mainstream Chinese Chat Application

This established itself as the principal mode of communication in China until the emergence of WeChat in 2011. WeChat currently dominates the Chinese messaging app sphere, commanding over a 90% market presence and boasting more than 1 billion active users monthly.

WeChat has evolved into a potent force in China, being utilized for a wide array of purposes, from professional communications to hailing cabs. Although contenders have arisen over the years, few have managed to secure any substantial market slice from WeChat.

While WeChat and Tencent QQ are fixtures in China, new Chinese Chat Applications have emerged in the past year, aspiring to seize a fraction of the market share held by these two prevailing platforms.

WeChat & QQ – Leading Chinese Chat Apps

In this piece, I’ll expound upon these two commanding Chinese messaging applications, as well as the challengers vying for the #3 spot in China.

WeChat: The Leading Chinese Chat Application

Which stands as the preeminent Chinese messenger app? If you possess even a fleeting curiosity about China, you’ve undoubtedly heard of WeChat. WeChat is frequently dubbed “The Chinese Web,” as nearly anything you execute on the internet is achievable on WeChat as well.

WeChat – The Foremost Chinese Chat Application

Owing to the recent upswing in the popularity of WeChat Mini-Programs, applications that reside within the WeChat ecosystem, WeChat has transcended being merely a Chinese chat application. Users can book rides, reserve lodgings, indulge in music, peruse content, engage in games, dispatch funds, procure train tickets, reserve movie tickets, and even apply for loans!

WeChat Mini-Programs 

Beyond these attributes, WeChat is also the most favored Chinese instant messenger in corporate settings. This is due to the exceedingly low penetration of email in China, which was only recorded at 36.7% as per the last report in 2017. Even though email does witness some adoption in workplaces, WeChat is an absolute imperative for business dealings in China.

It’s standard for both external and internal business dialogues to transpire via WeChat. As the top social media platform and the primary Chinese chat application, it’s also extensively leveraged by marketers across the nation.

Diverging from WhatsApp Marketing, which is still in its infancy, an entire marketing sector has burgeoned around this Chinese texting application. WeChat is frequently likened to the Chinese Facebook, and WeChat marketing tactics have advanced beyond Influencer product endorsements.

This has resulted in a demand for WeChat CRMs and Automation platforms to oversee conversations, optimize procedures, and craft personalized encounters for users on the platform.

CRMs and Automation platforms have come to the fore to serve the market, owing to WeChat’s surge in popularity as a Chinese Chat Application.

WeChat CRMs & Automation Platforms

While all these features render WeChat the premier Chinese chat application, there are a few vulnerabilities for potential contenders to exploit.

Given WeChat’s pervasive presence in China, evading it can be challenging. Chinese laborers have voiced grievances about their WeChat activities being monitored by superiors.

In the earlier part of this year, one Chinese city endeavored to prohibit after-hours WeChat communications to safeguard work-life equilibrium. In 2018, an employee reported that she was actually dismissed for failing to disseminate content from the company’s WeChat Official Account on her personal newsfeed.

The second vulnerability is a phenomenon we’ve also observed with premier social media platforms in the West: a waning interest among younger users. In China, older users have begun to dominate WeChat, prompting younger users to gravitate towards trendier platforms like Douyin (Tik Tok).

Younger Users May Shun WeChat For a New Generation of Chinese Chat App

As a burgeoning number of older individuals join WeChat, the younger generations are embracing new Chinese Messaging Apps. There are three novel Chinese chat apps aiming to challenge WeChat’s supremacy.

The emergence of Chinese chat applications in early 2019 has been spurred by these vulnerabilities in WeChat. Despite their ambition to target these shortcomings, it’s highly improbable that they’ll manage to supplant WeChat as the top Chinese chat application.

Tencent QQ: Former Premier Chinese Messaging Champion 

Tencent’s QQ was the pioneering Chinese chat application to attain mainstream prominence. It reigned as the top Chinese messaging app prior to WeChat’s debut.

QQ – First Mainstream Chinese Chat App

While WeChat has taken the reins and ascended to the apex, QQ remains a favored messaging platform in China. This Chinese messaging app still garners the most favor with younger users, who feel shielded from parental scrutiny on the platform.

One of QQ’s potential upsides is the absence of a requirement for a phone number for registration. This facilitates the initiation of Chinese chat for very young individuals, even if they haven’t subscribed to a mobile phone plan yet.

Tencent QQ

Because QQ, the Chinese chat app, doesn’t necessitate a phone number for registration, it enables youngsters to embark on Chinese conversations at an early age.

Observing the platform’s popularity among younger users, Tencent has introduced features that cater directly to this demographic. Some of these features encompass its entertainment-centric news feed Kandian and its E-sports live-streaming service NOW Live.

However, the largest user base for QQ pertains to its role as an internal office messaging tool. For desktop-based messaging in professional settings, QQ remains a prevalent choice. Each Chinese messaging app comes with its idiosyncrasies; QQ distinguishes itself as a highly potent desktop messenger.

While the desktop version of WeChat has encroached upon QQ’s market share in the workplace, numerous individuals in China still resort to it for workplace conversations and file transfers. QQ enables users to transmit files larger than 25 MB, a functionality not supported by WeChat.

QQ Desktop – Workplace Chinese Messaging App of Choice

Given QQ’s capability to transmit files exceeding 25 MB, QQ persists as the preferred Chinese workplace messaging app.

Yet, QQ’s future lies in the hands of the younger generations. Tencent has acknowledged this and plans to continue incorporating features that boost the average time spent per user on the platform. As of 2018, 60% of users on the platform were born after 1990, and 40% of users identify as students.

The Three Challengers: Toilet, Bullet Messenger, and Duoshan  

In January 2019, three distinct companies unveiled their individual Chinese messenger apps, aspiring to vie for a share of China’s Tencent-dominated messenger market.

马桶MT (Water Closet) – The Privacy-Focused Chinese Messenger

First in line is the humorously named Water Closet. The moniker originates from a popular song by Andy Lau. The song contends that a water closet is an item every individual possesses, a confidant for flushing away troubles, rendering each toilet a companion.

马桶MT (Toilet) – Chinese Messaging App Newcomer

Water Closet is a Chinese Messaging App that prioritizes privacy and purports to be the antithesis of WeChat. The app is entirely incognito, employing dynamic IDs to safeguard a user’s privacy. While the app doesn’t present any exceedingly extraordinary features, it has garnered some traction among privacy-conscious users in China.

Andy Lau – Inspiration to Chinese Messaging App Naming

Although it may enjoy popularity, it appears unlikely that this alternative to WeChat could forge a robust monetization model capable of challenging WeChat. While the app has witnessed an uptick in its user base, its potential for monetization seems limited, likely impeding its future expansion.

多闪 (Duoshan) – The Douyin Chat App

Next up is Duoshan (Duoshan), which translates to “Much Flash,” a messaging service birthed by China’s newest tech juggernaut, Bytedance. The app essentially extends Bytedance’s runaway triumph, Douyin or TikTok in English. The app centers on enabling Douyin users to network and interact with one another.

Duoshan is not an autonomous Chinese Messenger; it’s a spinoff of Douyin. Duoshan allows Douyin users to converse with one another.

Doushan – The Douyin Chat App

The app mirrors Snapchat in many respects, permitting users to dispatch self-deleting videos to one another. Described by an insider at Toutiao as an app combining “Snapchat’s framework with Instagram and messengers GIF functions, plus the Apple Watch’s heartbeat.” This description might not make perfect sense to me, but its closest resemblance appears to be with Snapchat.

Duoshan, the Chinese Messenger, bears the greatest resemblance to Snapchat in nature.

Doushan Is Similar To Snapchat

With the backing of Douyin and its mounting popularity, it could emerge as a formidable contender to secure a spot in the Chinese Messenger marketplace. As it caters to the same demographic as QQ, it might possess the potential to ascend to the #2 messenger in China.

Bullet Messenger: The Super Swift Chinese Messenger 

The ultimate app was anticipated to soar to prominence last year; however, it failed to meet the expectations. Created by Kuairu Technology, Bullet Messenger managed to accumulate over 4 million users within just nine days of its launch. Its initial surge in popularity was attributed to its minimalist interface and its speech-to-text feature for messaging.

Bullet Messenger – Now Branded as LiaoTianBao (Chat Treasure)

Although its introduction was exceedingly prosperous, it couldn’t sustain that momentum, with only 14% of users remaining on the platform a week after downloading it.

The app reemerged in January 2019 as LiaoTianBao (Chat Treasure). The app has evidently shifted its focus, now offering monetary and virtual currency incentives for users who perform specific actions on the platform.

The app is clearly tailored to the lower-tier cities in China, even forging ties with China’s most popular group-buying platform, PinDuoDuo.


Nonetheless, if you need to incentivize users to engage with your platform, it’s likely not something users genuinely desire. Personally, these cash incentives exude an air of desperation, implying that this is probably no longer a serious contender for the title of #1 Chinese Messaging App.

Which Chinese Messenger Should I Utilize?

There’s no doubt that WeChat is the Chinese instant messenger you’ll rely upon. WeChat is so deeply ingrained in daily life that abstaining from it could pose serious inconveniences when traveling in China or collaborating with potential Chinese business associates.


For virtually every scenario, barring the transfer of sizable files, you’re going to rely on WeChat in China, so acclimatize yourself to it if you intend to engage in business within the nation.

For marketers seeking to integrate messengers into their marketing strategy, the platform they choose will hinge on their target demographic. For most businesses, the likely choice will be WeChat; however, if you aim to engage a younger audience, QQ and DuoShan may also yield fruitful results! If you want to learn more, visit our website today!


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