Ubiquitous all-in-one lifestyle app WeChat now has one billion user accounts globally, says its chief executive.
WeChat hits one billion user accounts
Pony Ma revealed the news at a press conference in Beijing, where he is taking part in China's annual legislative sessions.
He called the milestone a "remarkable number," saying it had been reached over the Lunar New Year holiday.
The one billion figure is for active user accounts, not total users, as some may have more than one account.
WeChat is China's dominant social platform. Although it started as a messaging app, it's now used for an array of services including food delivery, money transfers, ticket booking and taxi hailing.
WeChat's importance in China cannot be overstated.
In cities, street vendors, taxi drivers and even beggars offer the app's barcode-like QR codes, so customers can make a payment or donation with a simple scan.
The service is so tied up with daily life that Liu Chuanzhi, founder of PC-maker Lenovo, recently complained about travelling to the US for medical treatment and not being able to use WeChat to consult his doctors.
The 73-year-old added that he was annoyed by the need to carry pocket change in America.
Still, Connie Gu, an analyst at investment bank BOCOM International, says WeChat’s user growth has actually slowed the last three quarters.
Most of China’s 772 million internet users are already on it.
The app is facing difficulties expanding into overseas markets that are now dominated by entrenched players, such as WhatsApp in the US and Line in Southeast Asia.
The Facebook-owned WhatsApp has 1.5 billion users, while Line has 203 million.
“The barrier to entry is really high,” Gu says. “People are used to Facebook and WhatsApp. It’s hard to get them to switch to WeChat unless it has special functions to offer.”
The success of WeChat has made Ma the richest man in China, according to Forbes.
But maintaining its track record of success may prove tough outside China.