Inkstone
    Apr
    12
    2018
    Apr
    12
    2018
    The app that makes you beautiful, no matter where you are
    The app that makes you beautiful, no matter where you are
    TECH

    The app that makes you beautiful, no matter where you are

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    by
    Celia Chen
    Celia Chen
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    When it comes to how people like their selfies to look, different nationalities and age groups have very different preferences.

    Norwegian women like to keep their freckles. Chinese users want to banish their blemishes. In South America, selfie-takers want bright colors in their portraits.

    And everywhere, the old want to look young, while the young want to look mature.

    Group 5
    Selfies and touch-ups are now a basic demand. The pursuit for beauty is eternal
    -
    Wu Xinhong, Meitu CEO
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    That’s according to Wu Xinhong, the CEO of Meitu – a photo enhancement app that allows you to snap a selfie and apply a huge range of “improvements,” from whiter skin to tapered jaws to larger, rounder eyes.

    Think Snapchat filters on steroids.

    “Meitu” means “beautiful portrait” in Chinese. The app has 455 million monthly active users.

     “Selfies and touch-ups are now a basic demand, especially among women,” Wu told the South China Morning Post. “The pursuit for beauty is eternal.”

    A Meitu staff member demonstrates the software. In India, more men than women use the app.
    A Meitu staff member demonstrates the software. In India, more men than women use the app. Photo: Xinhua/Jiang Kehong

    Selfie starter

    Wu, now 37, set up Meitu in the southeastern Chinese port city of Xiamen in 2008. After graduating from high school in nearby Quanzhou in Fujian province, he ran domain-name registration businesses for several years before starting to develop and research photo-editing software.

    A photography buff, Wu found it tedious to have to alter and airbrush photos.

    “If only there was an automatic tool with an easy one-touch feature to make a photo pleasurable and beautiful,” he said.

    Today, that dabbling in photo-editing has turned Meitu into China’s top selfie-enhancement app company. It is poised to turn a profit this year, the first time since its 2016 IPO in Hong Kong, according to estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

    Three in five of those who use Meitu are between 18 and 30 years of age, with women making up 81% of its users.

    Group 5
    Photos will not be posted on WeChat or Weibo without beautification
    -
    Wang Xinyue, Meitu user

    For Wang Xinyue, 23, using Meitu extends to trying the virtual make-up styles within the app and then choosing those that work for her to use in real life.

    “Photos will not be posted on WeChat or Weibo without beautification,” said Wang, who graduated from Wuhan University last year, referring to two popular Chinese social media networks.

    Wu Xinhong, founder of Meitu.
    Wu Xinhong, founder of Meitu. Photo: Simon Song

    Social snaps

    But Meitu has plans beyond selfies.

    The company has been making smartphones with built-in beautification software since 2013.

    And a major initiative for the company is to transform its namesake app into what it calls a “photo-social platform,” in which users can share their photos and follow the latest trends. The company expects to introduce the upgrade by the end of June.

    Meitu also plans to bake more artificial intelligence into its apps. The company has introduced an AI-based skin detection feature in its e-commerce platform, MeituBeauty, which recommends skincare and cosmetics products according to one’s skin condition.

    Wu Xinhong introduces the Meitu M4 smartphone in 2015.
    Wu Xinhong introduces the Meitu M4 smartphone in 2015. Photo: Simon Song

    This year, Meitu also plans to expand its internet value-added services, including games, online literature and VIP membership services to tap into growing online spending by women. It‘s planning to build “an ecosystem around beauty.”

    Ironically, Meitu CEO Wu, who remains a keen amateur photographer, may take some convincing to partake in the photo-social platform that Meitu is introducing.

    “I take photos and videos, but mostly with mobile phones,” he said. “But I don’t share them publicly.”

    The king of selfies is happy to leave that to his 455 million users.

    CELIA CHEN
    COLUMNIST
    CELIA CHEN
    Celia Chen is a contributor to Inkstone. She covers technology for the South China Morning Post.

    CELIA CHEN
    COLUMNIST
    CELIA CHEN
    Celia Chen is a contributor to Inkstone. She covers technology for the South China Morning Post.

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