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Facebook changes to be more like WeChat
Published on: 2019-03-12
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Facebook plans to change its social media platform with private messaging, groups and payments that resemble WeChat innovations is the latest example of China tech being copied in the West. It's a trend that has evolved over the past decade as China tech have moved up from the old standard of copying from Silicon Valley, when Facebook was copied in China by Renren.

Chinese mobile apps are more advanced than those in the West for content, social and commerce. WeChat makes it easy to shop, pay and connect, and it's more functional than Facebook apps. Tencent’s ubiquitous super app WeChat has 1 billion users. WeChat Pay counts 900 million users, an instant mobile wallet that bypasses banking and credit card fees to pay for items via a mobile app scan.

033WeChat min-shops blend content with commerce seamlessly with links to sales products that can be accessed only within WeChat. This is a China-first monetization approach for mobile apps. Within two years of its launch, WeChat mini-shops reached 200 million users. Tesla and Walmart have launched mini-shops on WeChat.

WeChat doesn’t move the needle much in the US, leaving an opportunity for Facebook to fill the gap with its own innovations. WeChat messaging and calls can be used in the US but its payment and shopping functions aren't readily accessible in the US without a China bank account and a registered Chinese account. Only about 2 percent of US internet users access WeChat once every few days – although the majority of my Chinese-American business contacts in the US and in China vouch for its usefulness.

031This is not the first time that Facebook has imitated a Chinese model. China’s short video app TikTok from Chinese unicorn ByteDance prompted Facebook in 2018 to launch its own version, Lasso, that has been described in China as a “100 percent” copy of the Chinese-created app.

035WeChat’s online version of Chinese New Year red envelopes stuffed with cash for gifts to friends and family also inspired Facebook, which tested its own cash gift feature.

034Look for more successful business concepts from China to be copied outside China. It's part of the US-China tech race that I've been covering for well more than a decade.

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