|Initial release||January 2011|
iOS 126.96.36.199 (June 23, 2014q) [±]
|Operating system||iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Symbian, BlackBerry OS, BlackBerry 10, OS X|
|Available in||English, Chinese (Simplified & Traditional), Thai, Indonesian, Vietnamese, Malay, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Polish, Italian, Russian, Hindi, Turkish|
|Type||Instant Messaging Client|
WeChat (Chinese: 微信; pinyin: Wēixìn; literally: "micro message") is a mobile text and voice messaging communication service developed by Tencent in China, first released in January 2011. It is the largest standalone messaging app by monthly active users.
The app is available on Android, iPhone, BlackBerry, Windows Phone and Symbian phones, and there are also Web-based and OS X clients but these require the user to have the app installed on a supported mobile phone for authentication. As of 2013, WeChat has 300 million users; with 70 million outside of China.
WeChat provides text messaging, hold-to-talk voice messaging, broadcast (one-to-many) messaging, sharing of photographs and videos, and location sharing. It can exchange contacts with people nearby via Bluetooth, as well as providing various features for contacting people at random if desired (if these are open to it) and integration with social networking services such as those run by Facebook and Tencent QQ. Photographs may also be embellished with filters and captions, and a machine translation service is available.
WeChat began as a project at Tencent Guangzhou Research and Project center in October 2010. The original name of the app, "Weixin", was invented by Xiaolong Zhang, and named by Ma Huateng, Tencent CEO.
In April 2012, Weixin re-branded as WeChat for the international market.
In April 2013, rumors online speculated that WeChat would charge a fee for the app. A poll showed that 90% of users strongly opposed this move. WeChat currently is free to download and use.
In May 2013, it was revealed that Rainie Yang would be a product endorser for WeChat. To promote the app in India, WeChat recruited Bollywood actors Varun Dhawan and Parineeti Chopra as brand ambassadors.
In July 2013, Tencent announced to test Games within WeChat.
On 5 August 2013, WeChat 5.0 was launched with new features and functions including payment center, games center and sticker shop.
In June 2014, Wechat closed 20 million accounts because they offered prostitution services.
According to GlobalWebIndex, WeChat is the fifth most used smartphone app worldwide and in August 2013 WeChat claimed it had 100 million registered international users which it is achieved in only 3 months from 50 million registered international users. It also claimed 300 million registered Chinese users.
Starting January 9, 2013 reports arose that Chinese language searches outside China were being keyword filtered and then blocked. This occurred both to China from foreign countries and from foreign countries to other foreign countries. WeChat already censors its communications within China. In this new international example of blocking, a message was displayed on users' screens reading “The message “南方周末” you sent contains restricted words. Please check it again.” The Chinese characters stand for a Guangzhou-based paper called Southern Weekly (or, alternatively, Southern Weekend). The next day Tencent released a statement addressing the issue saying “A small number of WeChat international users were not able to send certain messages due to a technical glitch this Thursday. Immediate actions have been taken to rectify it. We apologize for any inconvenience it has caused to our users. We will continue to improve the product features and technological support to provide better user experience.” WeChat has plans to build two different platforms to avoid this problem in the future; one for Chinese mainlanders and one for the rest of the world. The problem exists because WeChat's servers are currently all located in China and thus subject to its censorship rules.
The rise in the app’s popularity throughout the World has given politicians and dissidents concerns on the matter of security and privacy outside the realms of China. Voice messaging, a feature on WeChat, has caused users to fear that the service will allow the monitoring of users’ movements in real time by security officials. WeChat as well contains the ability to access the text messages, contact books of its users and users’ location through the GPS feature. Countries such as Taiwan, India, the United States, and China all fear that the app poses a threat to national security for various reasons.
In October, when the app was launched in Taiwan, legislators were concerned that the potential exposure of private communications was a threat to national security.
Researchers in India stated that the Chinese Internet Giant, Tencent, is a threat to national security based on the Chinese government’s ability to access chat logs, contact lists, messages, calls, and geographic locations. In June 2013, the Indian Intelligence Bureau flagged WeChat for security concerns. The Indian Intelligence Agency informed the National Security Advisor about WeChat and its messaging platform. The agency reported that the messaging platforms raised new cyber threats, focusing on India and accessing its data with the help of Tencent. Spokesperson of Tencent, Hu Chunnan, however stated that Tenecent and the app WeChat follows and complies to all relevant local laws and regulations. India has debated whether or not they should ban We Chat for its possibility in collecting too much personal information and data from its users.
Western users voiced concerns on the lack of personal data protection and the safety of personal privacy issues, fearing that the Chinese Government will have too much access of its citizens’ information. Furthermore, US lawmakers fear that the telecommunications equipment sold by Huawei and ZTE, Chinese firms, lack overall security. Adam Segal, a Council on Foreign Relations cyber-security expert, stated that though an app may have been created in the US, it is not immune to cyber-attack.
Users in China have as well expressed fear in the privacy issues of the app, WeChat. Human rights activist, Hu Jia was jailed for three years for sedition. He speculates that the guobao officials, or the internal security bureau, listened to his voicemail messages that were directed to his friends, repeating the words displayed within the voice mail messages to Hu Jia. Chinese authorities have further accused the app for its threat to individual safety. CCTV, a state run broadcaster, featured a piece in which WeChat was described as an app that allows criminals an easy way in due to its location-reporting features. CCTV gave an example of such accusations through reporting the murder of Xu Xiaohong, a single woman who was murdered by a man she met on WeChat after he attempted to rob her. The location-reporting feature, according to reports, was the reason for the man’s knowing of the victim’s whereabouts. Authorities within China have linked WeChat to numerous crimes. The city of Hangzhou, for example, has reported over twenty crimes in the span of three months. 
Supporters of the app argue that WeChat is overall safe. Martin Johnson, a founder of the anti-censorship site GreatFire.org, states that WeChat is a less potential threat than the app Weibo based on WeChat’s focus on messaging between well-known acquaintances and social groups. Doug Young, a Shanghai-based author of the Party Line, notes that while the app may practice self-censorship within China, it however will not practice the same censorship ideals outside of China. Doing so, according to Doug Young, would affect the apps image and possibility in expanding globally.
WeChat provides a Web-based client, with messaging and file transfer capabilities, but not the other functions such as detection of nearby people. However, in order to use the Web-based client, it is necessary to first scan a QR code using the phone app. This means it is not possible to get onto the WeChat network if you do not possess a suitable smartphone with the app installed.
Possible trademark dispute
In 2012 TechInAsia reported a possible trademark dispute over the WeChat name.
- Tencent Inc. (June 25, 2014). "WeChat". App Store. Apple. Retrieved June 25, 2014.
1. App Store has been noted 17+, which means download only for seventeen years and older (for Apple ID holder).
2. iOS version available in iPhone only but user can run in iPad.
- Template:Cite we
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- Sohu IT page (in Chinese) "登陆依然需要手机扫描二维码" (registration still requires having your mobile scan a code)
- Tencent’s Group Messaging App WeChat Talks Its Way Into India, Tech in Asia
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- 逾9成网友反对微信收费 称“有大把可代替应用”
- Wechat Mother's Day Greeting by Rainie Yang
- "Chinese Messaging App WeChat Ropes In Parineeti Chopra And Varun Dhawan To Reach Out To The Youth".
- Wechat Oversea User Hit 70 Million, Hired Messi for Global Ad Promotion,China Internet Watch,August 20, 2013
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- WeChat 5.0 for iPhone Release
- 微信 5.0 for iPhone 全新发布
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- "传微信用户总数超6亿 海外业务或将独立". October 23, 2013.
- http://www.warc.com/Content/News/N31650_Chinese_love_smartphones_.content?PUB=Warc%20News&CID=N31650&ID=12c32f89-50c3-4514-8d76 445b8246c7fd&q=smartphones&qr=
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- Muncaster, Phil (11 January 2013). "China censors chat users outside China". The Register.
- Web WeChat
- Official WeChat website
- Official English WeChat website
- Official Spanish Wechat
- Wechat for PC
- Wechat for Windows 8 & 8.1 Metro App