Tencent wants strangers to know each other while using “masks” in its new social video-calling app

Tencent aspires to position itself as the first player in video social networking before the arrival of the 5G era.

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Chinese social giant Tencent has released a video-calling app in a bid to catch up with the short-video trend and expand its presence in the social networking sector, as its messaging platforms WeChat and QQ both hit bottleneck in capturing new users.

At its core, the newborn app, dubbed “Maohu,” is a dating platform, which allows users to choose beautifying filters or put on cartoon masks when connected with friends and people nearby.

Maohu’s matches users with a person of the opposite sex, based on location and interests. The two can then have a further face-to-face digital conversation, but with the use of the platform’s masks. Within five minutes, users have the chance to add each other as friends on the platform.

Men are required to take off masks to send a friend request and can only get three matches per day, while women don’t have these limitations.

Maohu comes at a time when Tencent is struggling to recreate its dominant position in the social networking sector, specifically in the short-video competition. Several attempts foraying into the area—including Yoo Video, Hotpot Video, and Haokan Video, have all encountered lukewarm feedbacks, while top players Bytedance and Kuaishou have claimed more than 70% of the market, according to industry data provider QuestMobile.

Tencent’s WeChat and QQ, the two main messaging apps in China, both saw a decline in monthly active users in the third quarter compared with the numbers from June.

Tencent is developing two more social apps, Chinese tech-focused media TechPlanet reported. One is targeting both Weibo’s Instagram-like content-sharing platform Oasis, and social e-commerce site Xiaohongshu, while the other app is expected to be another dating platform.

Industry insiders said that Maohu represents Tencent’s first move to seize the market of video social networking ahead of a major adoption of 5G connections, and added that Maohu’s functions might be included as an add-on service for WeChat’s video-calling function.