Like many population questions in China, the actual population of We Chat users is guestimated but unconfirmed. According to its app page, We Chat boasts over 300 million users or the population of the United States and growing. In news reports, the population has been posted at 200 million users.
Throughout this trip to the US, I have maintained my links with Shenzhen friends via We Chat. This makes me one of a fast growing — what? — group? Community? Chinese speaking chatty Kathies? If it were a country, the We Chat app population would be the 6th most populous country in the world (population clock). The app would have 2/3 the population of the United States, 1/6 the population of India, and 1/7 the population of China. And here’s the rub: the We Chat population is mediated by one company in Shenzhen.
All this information came to a head because yesterday the We Chat Product Team at Tencent gently reminded me and over that:
Recently, the message that “We Chat will charge its users” has circulated on weibo. This is malicious gossip. We ask everyone not to believe these rumors. The We Chat Product Team states that it will not charge users, more we are currently developing new functions, hoping that We Chat will be more user-friendly and more fun.
The team sent the message to me via the We Chat app. I also receive news casts via We Chat. Each message includes a main article with a large image, and three small articles with a thumbnail. Headlines du moment are:
- A Bali Plane with 101 passengers sinks into the sea;
- Xi Jinping will see American Secretary of State, John Kerry, the Americans call the North Korean question the key issue;
- The husband of a Shanghai woman with Avian flu catches it, however its still not clear if people can transmit the disease to each other;
- Geng Yanbo was selected Mayor of Taiyuan City, Shandong, he was once known unofficially as “the Mayor who builds cities”.
Now We Chat has a smaller population than Microsoftlandia, which has boasted 750 million users worldwide. However, unlike Mircrosoft, We Chat as actual access to every user through their phones. Mine chimes and I know I have received a message. Moreover, this app is being used to feed me information and news. Thus, today, I’m wondering what it means that (a) I received this message while traveling in the States — indeed, these few weeks We Chat has my primary form of communication with Chinese friends, and (b) given the number of users, the message is itself news — in other words, We Chat has a “private” line to its 300 million users that sidesteps Government oversight.