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China's Tencent launches social messaging app WeChat with ibibo in India; How different is it?

Chinese internet major Tencent, in collaboration with ibibo, has  launched its social messaging platform WeChat, a free mobile voice and text messaging application available globally, in India. Tencent had acquired minority shares in ibibo in 2008.

WeChat offers text messaging,  push to talk voice chat, face-face video call, audio call (when wifi or 3G connection is there), photo/video sharing, location sharing, and contact information exchange. It also has multimedia applications of innovative social friend-discovery features and an option to stream photo feeds from friends' personal photo albums.

Dennis Hau, head of International product center, Tencent International Business Group said, "WeChat is not just a simple instant messenger mobile app but it is actually a platform that intends to introduce a new communication style where users can connect with each other via interesting push-to talk voice messaging, video call, text and content."

"Our R&D is also working towards some more innovations for the app like how to use it while you are driving. Additionally we are also working towards India-specific social elements in WeChat, with localised content and functions to develop the local community," Hau said.

Right now,  WeChat is available for free download on Android, iOS, Windows and Symbian mobile platforms. It will also be available on Blackberry platform in the next couple of months.

WeChat has over 100 million registered users globally, according to Tencent.

With so many similar apps like Whatsaoo, Nimbuzz, Hike, Viber and e-buddy being launched in the market, the space is becoming increasingly crowded. A few weeks back Bharti Softbank (BSB), a joint venture between Bharti Enterprises and Japanese Internet firm Softbank Corp, launched Hike, a peer-to-peer (P2P) messaging app that uses both data and SMS to deliver messages,  which also lets you message those who don't have the app on their mobiles. This facility is not available in WeChat.

The apps are also available in most of the platforms like WeChat. Whatsapp is present in Blackberry platform, apart from  Android, iOs, Symbian and Windows.

The differentiators

WeChat's differentiating factor is that its user interface includes features like  'Hold-to-Talk' voice messaging service, which enables users to send voice messages at the touch of a button, 'Moments', where users can post their special 'Moments (pics/text)' and share the same only with their selected friends so that the content remains secure. It also has functions like 'Shake' and 'Drift Bottle' that enable users from any part of the world to build new connections.

Rahul Razdan, president, mobile and gaming, ibibo, said, "Our immediate focus is on building the user base, enhancing the experience and eco-system of WeChat in India. We will be adding newer features to WeChat on a regular basis."

(Edited by Prem Udayabhanu)

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