But already, one out of every four users of We Chat is non-Chinese, and the company has its sights set on world domination.It has enlisted celebrities including Barcelona footballer Lionel Messi and Bollywood stars Varun Dhawan and Parineeti Chopra to promote it into European, South American, South Asian and other markets.This is a story about friendship, technology, commerce, sex, silliness, surveillance, entrepreneurship and messages in bottles.It is a story about ordinary people, including me, maybe even you, and definitely 19 others within a radius of one kilometre of the desk at home on which I am writing this. We Chat, weixin 微信 or ‘micro-letter’ in Chinese, boasts 650 million monthly active users (out of 1.1 billion registered accounts).This makes We Chat, she says ‘more like a browser for mobile websites, or arguable, a mobile operating system – complete with its own proprietary app store.’ We Chat’s expansion into every aspect of life in China, which has been in tandem with the rise of China’s middle class, and the speed at which it is extending itself into the rest of the world is a business and technology success story. Some of the concerns are about its monopoly, or near-monopoly power – similar to those raised in relation to other establishment ‘disruptors’ like Google and Facebook.
We Chat is, as David Pierce wrote in Wired magazine, ‘The Everything App’. Once connected, wherever you are in the world, you can chat individually or in groups via text, voice messages, or free Skype-like voice or video call.As with Weibo and the Internet in general, government censors use algorithms that pick up sensitive words and banned topics.