Yee Trinh
Yee Trinh Cofounder at

Asked this question on 19/4/16 -Startup

Who knows about WeChat and why isn't it popular in the West?

They're absolutely dominating in China. Came out with an Enterprise solution yesterday...

Top voted answer
Brad Lyons

Brad Lyons Consultant at

Top 10% Budgeting and Forecasting Get quote

Population plays a big role in this.

China: 1,382,323,332

USA: 324,118,787

AUS: 24,309,330

Just looking at will show you just how little they need to bother about marketing to us. The "Western World" isn't always the best market place and the numbers show that.

WeChat has just under 700 million users, Facebook messenger has around 900 million, QQ has around 900 million and WhatsApp has over a Billion. So to answer your question, Wechat simply isn't useful to people in the west because not enough westerners use it. For those who communicate with people in China they most likely use QQ or Facebook.

The same question could be asked about Line. For those in Japan, Thailand, Indonesia and India would ask why don't more people in the west use Line. However Line only has around 250 million users and the bulk are in the above mentioned countries. However to them, Line is the biggest IM app. TV ads based on Line stickers, Products with Line codes etc, yet outside of those countries Line is very uncommon.

Yee Trinh

But is it an inability to penetrate the Western world, a conscious decision not to.. or simply a matter of time? I understand your first point.. so you suggest it's just not worth their while to invest outside of China? Surely there's money to be made. And it's not insignificant.

Brad Lyons

I could be a matter of time, it comes down to their motive. From a sales point of view Australia would be close to the bottom of the list based on population. It comes down to ROI and motive.

For motive it may not be direct revenue they are after, it is most likely the meta data. In that case Australia may be further up the list. The collect a lot of valuable data that would make them more money than advertising and other promotions they have. Selling user data and meta data is common for social media sites, so when it comes to IM it is no different.

As for the ROI.
My business partner made a good point that relates to this. One of our products has market share in Australia, it took about 3 years to get there however we finally took the market.

We talked about future projects and his reply was "As long as it isn't in Australia". His reason;
Take the product we just got market share with and build it for the American market. Put in the same amount of time and effort and our return would be multiplied by more than 10.

The truth is the product we took to the Australian market was only built because we both have passion for the industry, saw the industry didn't like the current products and are both Aussies. However it would have made more sense to develop the product for the American market. While we do make money, the difference between the Australian market and say the American market is massive. So the money made on Australian products is by definition insignificant when you have larger countries that want the same product.

IM and social media are all about data, the more users the more meta data, so China and India at the top of the list.

Another way to look at it. I sell data, Australia has ~24,309,330 people, America has ~324,118,787. When I sell data at ~9c per record, what country is more appealing? This is why Australia is behind with a lot of technology and advancements. The market simply isn't big enough to invest in at the early stage. After the bigger markets have been taken over sure, Australia is very appealing however not at the top of the list.

Another way to look at it. We are also SMS providers and most banks and collection companies are starting to change over to us because no competitor can beat our price. We make money on a per SMS basis. Looking at the population Australia should not be a priority, however... again because we are Aussies and saw that greedy companies are simply ripping other companies off and we like to upset those companies. We offer this in Australia. However America would make us much more money.

I see this every time I walk into an Australian clients office. Even some of the countries largest companies are behind the times. Unless they have an American company behind them they simply don't know the new way to do things. Analytics is one of those areas, I have spoken to companies most would expect to be up to date with the analytics world only to see just how far behind they are.

As an Aussie I hate it, I want to see things come to our country a lot faster however the numbers hold most people back from focusing products on the Australian market.

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Jef Lippiatt

Jef Lippiatt Owner at Startup Chucktown

Top 10% Training and Development


Great question. I've definitely heard of WeChat but don't use it myself. I would say there are many similar apps here in the United States that are constantly competing (or trying to steal) users back and forth between the existing platforms.

For example the younger teenagers use SnapChat (a lot!) even though it isn't really an app made specifically for chatting. Also, there are geo-fenced (chat apps based on current physical location) such as YikYak and Kik.

Then of course there is the behemoth (aka Facebook Messenger) they (being Facebook) are trying to dominate the entire social space by walling users into their app ecosystem (Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, What's App, Oculus VR, Move and several others)

What's app is also a chat competitor but I lumped it into mentioning Facebook since they bought it awhile back.

I believe those are all competitors that impact adoption of other chat apps. Those are just the direct competitors. There of course are SMS (text messages) , video chatting (Skype, FaceTime, etc.). Then of course just straight up "old-school" calling someone.

The other indirect factors that jump to mind are limited storage space on the smartphone (meaning each app you have takes up hard-drive space). Also too many apps fracture your time so you may have 4 chatting apps on your phone but you may only really use 1 or 2.

I hope that helps.

James Huy Vuong

Great Question Yee!
I would say Origin is both the driving factor in user uptake in the east as well as the limiting factor in the west. WeChat originated from China, operates from China under Chinese law, which includes strong censorship provisions. Security and privacy concerns needs to be address.

Yee Trinh

WeChat is far more than a messaging app however. If you google it, it is actually a platform which they use, pretty much, for everything.. messaging, yes. But also booking doctor appointments, paying electricity fees or traffic fines, and booking transportation...

Why haven't the Western equivalents kept up to speed?

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