A new survey from Avanti, a division of the research firm TrendForce, found that 66 percent of WeChat users said they would no longer continue to use the service if it began charging a fee. A quarter of the 2,542 respondents also said they didn’t believe that Tencent Holdings Ltd., the company that created WeChat, would begin charging for the popular app.
Since Tencent first launched the app in 2011, it has become a huge phenomenon with over 300 million users worldwide. The vast majority of them are in China.
The survey was conducted in response to persistent concerns that China’s telecommunication operator, Ministry of Information and Industry Technology (MIIT), would seek to force Tencent to charge for the mobile app at the behest of China Mobile, the world’s largest mobile provider. China Mobile has been stepping up its criticism of Tencent recently over what it claims is the heavy burden subscribers using WeChat put on its network despite not paying for using the service. It had wanted MIIT to force users to pay for WeChat and for it to receive some of the resulting revenue.
Initially it looked like MIIT was going to heed China Mobile’s demands and the regulator had even brought the county’s other two major mobile companies, China Telecom and China Unicom, into the fold. On Monday, however, an MIIT official dismissed this possibility by saying the regulator would not get involved in the dispute between China Mobile and Tencent.
Meanwhile ,Tencent is exploring other ways to monetize the immensely popular mobile messaging service. Earlier this month, Tencent executives revealed plans to integrate e-commerce into the app in order to generate in revenue.
According to Focus Taiwan News Channel, an e-commerce version of WeChat would allow users to“interact with their friends via WeChat, and buy things, pay bills at a restaurant or even have their transactions done via the simple mobile app.”
Zachary Keck serves as assistant editor for The Diplomat.