Facebook wants to be WeChat

Mark Zuckerberg charted a new Facebook address this week that shifts his focus from a broad range of social applications to a one-stop messaging service that combines everything the company has to offer. If there is an analogue to what Facebook is trying to build, it exists in the WeChat form of Tencent, the largest social network in China. There are a number of key differences between the two products, but the final objectives are remarkably similar: single multiple-use networks that can be leveraged to serve users of all kinds of other services, from mobile payments to games, contact hotlines and businesses .

The momentum to become more of a service similar to WeChat has taken a long time to arrive. Facebook has been constantly persecuted for violations of privacy due to its aggressive approach and based on the feeding of social networks, and in the US. UU., It seems to be eliminating younger users. A promised privacy approach for this messaging service would address Facebook's immediate shortcomings, while the suite of services could serve to entrench each of the Facebook offers.

WeChat is often considered the "application of everything" for China's nearly 800 million smartphones. Owners: it is a game console, a bank, and even a gateway to the Chinese giants who share travel, food delivery and second hand purchases. It is also available in other regions, which gives WeChat a monthly active user base of more than one billion.

Due to its ubiquity and dominance, WeChat has been a desirable product, seemingly impossible to replicate for social media companies. As the do-everything application, it replaces device manufacturers such as Apple, Samsung and Xiaomi, and almost acts as a replacement for operating systems such as iOS and Android. Nothing, not even the Apple iMessage or the Facebook Messenger or even the WhatsApp compatible encryption, can compete with WeChat in China.

"What WeChat has done is to incorporate a constant stream of new services and features into its platform." The new features take advantage of the strong effect of network that WeChat already has, as the de facto messaging platform in China, "says Willy Shih, professor of administrative practice at the Harvard Business School.When adding services continuously, WeChat only becomes a more integral part of life daily and, as a result, it's harder to leave. "It's convenient for everything: payments, getting information, ordering things," he adds, as Shih points out, even homeless people in China use QR codes compatible with WeChat to accept payments. mobile when manipulated clandestinely

Facebook's ambitions to create an application platform for everything for a global audience goes back years, starting with his acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp in 2012 and 2014, respectively. Since then, as Instagram and WhatsApp avoid competition from their rivals, Messenger has taken on a large part of the responsibility of becoming the platform for everything on Facebook.

In the next half decade of Messenger's continuous development, Facebook has shot at games, AI chat bots, augmented reality camera features, mobile payments, and many other features that are designed so you can treat Messenger as something unique and different. mini-facebook focused on chat. In 2014, the company hired David Marcus, a highly successful digital payments entrepreneur who oversaw PayPal's strategic acquisition of Venmo's parent company, Braintree, to run Messenger, signaling Facebook's ambitions to turn the platform into a Service provider.

Now, with plans to take private messaging to downtown and downtown, Zuckerberg could finally create the version of WeChat that the world outside of China has lacked until now. It could be great and take a long time, attracting users to commit to the application not only for birthdays and group chats, but also for styles and products (Instagram) and to share news (Facebook and WhatsApp). The mega application of Facebook could be extended to the daily life of users for entertainment, news and commerce.

But building that kind of expanding network is a huge challenge. , and even WeChat has not done it without much help and good luck. In China, it received government subsidies, and many of its rivals could not run: that includes Messenger since 2009, the South Korean line since 2015 and WhatsApp in 2017, which significantly shortens the competitive landscape. The government has been happy to do that in return for being able to recover the deleted WeChat messages to help with police investigations. (Tencent refuses to store the chat stories).

WeChat was bombed to a large extent in its attempts to find success beyond the Chinese market. It was slow to internationalize, and when it finally did in 2012, Facebook was already taking off in the markets in which WeChat was trying to enter. The international application was also a ghost of his Chinese self; The global version of WeChat was limited to sending private messages to people.

Facebook has already expanded well around the world, which could help you succeed where WeChat failed. Internationally, Facebook and WhatsApp are the most used social networking applications, dwarfing Snapchat, Twitter, Viber and others, according to a report by the Pew Research Center published yesterday.

The multiple strategy of having the main application of Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram also means that there is no problem if one country gravitates towards one Facebook product over another . And Facebook has not stopped there either. It has a series of Internet connectivity efforts in developing countries, including a Wi-Fi gigabit project called Terragraph and an application called Express Wi-Fi, which are designed to attract more people online and turn them into Facebook users. one type or another.

However, Facebook will face other problems. The combination of its applications is likely to affect the European Commission, which is often concerned about the behavior of technological giants. The Congress of the United States, similarly, has questioned Facebook about whether it qualifies as a monopoly. Politically, the tide is turning against this type of mega technology companies. This morning, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) proposed dividing technology giants, including Facebook as part of her presidential campaign platform.

It is also not guaranteed that a messaging approach will first win users. In China, it is the older generations who prefer to use WeChat, which gives the application a kind of antiquated reputation not unlike that of Facebook among teenagers. If both applications do not, they may lose their style as users age.

After Zuckerberg presented his plans for Facebook, we have a very good idea of ​​what to expect, thanks to WeChat. We can also anticipate the obstacles that a monstrous application of Facebook would face: slow down the growth of users, a high dependence on advertising revenues and the Western regulatory forces that will try to rein in again. It's the latest history of merging cultures, like two (or more)) applications combine so many functions that they become almost the same and run the risk of losing what makes them so attractive in the first place. But Facebook has the opportunity to write its own story, if it can take lessons from where WeChat has stumbled.

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