Those of you who been following Irreal lately know of my fascination with the WeChat mobile app and its use in China where it serves as a wallet and messaging service. Chinese users pay for practically everything with it, use it to access government services, and for more mundane things like haling a cab or texting a friend.
I love this idea and wish we has something similar in the West. I don’t care so much about having every function in a single app but I would like to have something like Apple Pay that worked everywhere. If I have to use the Uber app to get a ride, that’s okay. The MIT Technology Review has an interesting article asking if WeChat can thrive in the U.S.
The answer so far is maybe not. Just as Western companies often have difficulty penetrating Chinese markets, Tencent, the maker of WeChat, has had limited success in penetrating markets outside of China and what success they have had is mostly with ethic Chinese traveling abroad. Part of that is that although I can download the WeChat app, I can’t link it to my bank account so I can’t use it to pay for things. On the other hand, there are already lots of successful social and messaging apps available so it doesn’t make a lot of sense to start using WeChat. That is, the network effects of the incumbent players inhibit Tencent from gaining traction in the West just as WeChat’s dominance in China would prevent, say, Facebook from succeeding in China were the Chinese government to cease blocking it.