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Tencent app factory churns out new social app, again

Written by Wency Chen Published on 

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Tencent is seeking to expand out of its comfort zone by launching several new apps to attract youngsters.

Tech giant Tencent has revealed another social app, this time focused on “making friends anonymously,” as the Chinese social giant has been trailing a string of new products lately, including a revamp of social network Pengyou, Tinder-like Qingliao, and video-calling app Maohu, among others.

The new platform, named “Dengyu Jiaoyou,” or “Lights meet friends” in Chinese, is the sixth app launched by Tencent since November, signaling the firm’s intention to attract youngsters to its ecosystem of apps and to fend off the rising threat from external companies such as Bytedance. Other apps released by Tencent includes audio-based networking service Echo, and microblogging social platform Youji.

With the slogan “meet warm souls,” Tencent’s latest app lets users post images or texts in a “plaza” section, which is visible to other users, who can then “warm” (a feature similar to “like”) or send direct messages to enable a private conversation. The platform also provides users with some auto-generated account names such as “Elegant Knight,” “Brave Magician,” and “Loyal Pirate” to choose from, as well as cartoon profile pictures.

The app is currently only available on the Android app store and users can log in with a phone number, without any further verification.

Other media outlets highlighted Dengyu Jiaoyou’s similarities to the extinguished WeChat feature “Drift Bottle,” a function that allowed its users to leave text, graphics or voice messages in a virtual bottle for random strangers to “pick up” and later start a conversation without revealing their real WeChat account. The feature was halted in 2018 by Tencent to avoid potential “dissemination of pornography and prostitution.”

Users can share public messages in the “plaza” section. Source: Screenshot of Dengyu Jiaoyou

Tencent’s recent moves are partly motivated by the weakening growth experienced by its “do-everything” app WeChat and the 20-year-old messaging tool QQ, the two main messaging apps in China, which according to research firm Questmobile both faced a decline in monthly active users in the third quarter of 2019, compared with the numbers from June.

Although Chinese mobile users spent 42% of their screen time on Tencent’s family of apps in September, the number decreased by 4.2% from last year’s level. Meanwhile, total time spent on ByteDance’s apps, including short video platform Douyin, Xigua Video, and news aggregator Jinri Toutiao, increased by 1.9%, accounting for 12.5% in Q3 2019, Questmobile report showed.

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