The application was initially launched as Weixin in China in January 2011, with international language support added onto the application in October 2011. It was then rebranded as WeChat in April 2012.
WeChat allows users to share messages via text, voice, group, photo, and video. It also allows users to share their location as well as address book contacts. In addition, the app supports a wide array of plugins and add-ons, including a number of photo filters. The contact list is backed up on demand and can be uploaded to or downloaded from a cloud-based service. WeChat claims to provide a social networking platform that emphasizes user privacy and fast response performance. WeChat also launched social gaming and stickers on August 5, 2013 for iOS devices.
There were some rumors going around that WeChat would soon begin charging for its service, but these rumors were shot down by Tencent’s CEO, who assured that the messaging service would remain free.
China Mobile sees WeChat as a threat and relaunched its Feition application to combat WeChat in April 2013. WeChat continues to be one of the fastest growing VoIP and messaging applications on the market.
WeChat had more than 200 million users in March 2012 according to Tencent CEO Ma Huateng. This number grew an additional 100 million to 300 million total users by January 2013. As of July 2013, WeChat had 400 million registered users and by August 6, 2013, WeChat had surpassed Twitter, Skype, Facebook, and Instagram in worldwide popularity despite being largely limited to Asia and the Middle East. By September 2013, WeChat had 272 million monthly active users, which then skyrocketed to nearly 400 million in May 2014 and to 468.1 million by November 2014.