Adaline Lau | December 15, 2010
Tencent, one of China’s largest Internet service portals, will launch its first English language social networking site in February 2011. It aims to provide a platform for foreign companies to connect with what it claims to be its 600 million active Chinese users.
The announcement follows the launch of an international version of its instant messenger, QQ International that is available in English, Japanese, and French. Tencent is not charging users for its instant messaging client service and it will also be free of advertisements.
Marc Violo, product manager of QQi, explained that right now, it is a start-up project that will grow organically and will target the “early adopting international community” instead of focused on generating revenue.
QQi is not designed to compete with other existing instant messaging clients such as MSN or Skype but positioned as a useful tool for business people and graduate students worldwide who wish to develop their network and get involved in opportunities in China, said Violo.
Tencent launched QQ International in October 2009. Since its beta version targeting foreigners living in China rolled out a little more than a year ago, 2 million registered accounts were created.
According to internal statistics as of November 2010, daily unique users for the instant messenger are estimated at 167,000. And out of the 1.3 million active accounts, 35 percent are made up of Chinese who speak English while the rest is comprised of foreigners from more than 200 countries.
In addition to its instant messenger functionality, QQi provides its users with free apps for China-related news, language learning tools, events, travel deals, directories, and videos.
While companies could not buy ads on the instant messenger, QQi has partnered with local brands such as travel portal Ctrip.com and local newspaper ChinaDaily.com with plans to integrate more third-party apps from local and global firms.
Violo said when Tencent launches its English language social networking site early next year, it aims to attract foreign brands to set up fan pages similar to Facebook’s offering on its SNS site.
It will also be integrated with QQi instant messenger and its existing information portal, www.imqq.com, to allow global brands to reach its higher-end QQ users which he described possess an international perspective and would tend to be more responsive to Western brands.
Although Facebook has more than 500 million active users worldwide, the social network is blocked in China.
Tencent founded in November 1998 is one of China’s largest Internet platforms that include QQ Instant Messenger, QQ.com, QQ Games, Qzone (social network), SoSo (search engine), PaiPai (ecommerce) and Tenpay.
Violo said that while the tech global community recognizes Tencent, the latest initiatives will enable the company to seed its brand name and reach out to early adopters in the wider international community.