Despite its name, Tencent’s blockbuster app WeChat is about much more than text-based chatting. The hugely popular Chinese app, which now boasts more than 864 million users, enables video messaging, group video conferencing, and a Snapchat-style social stream of six-second video clips. It’s also keeping sports fans hooked by streaming video from ESPN and the NBA to the masses in China. WeChat also doubles as a mobile payment app, allowing users to send money directly to one another, trade gamified “red envelopes” containing random increments of cash with a select group of friends or, as of early 2017, gift one another with a coffee from Starbucks. People in many Chinese cities can even use the app to pay utility bills, hail cabs, and schedule doctor’s appointments.
WeChat’s parent company Tencent is one of the most valuable companies in China. But dominance at home doesn’t necessarily mean a rapid expansion overseas. Apps like Facebook-owned WhatsApp and Messenger make WeChat’s international ambitions harder to achieve.