By John Gruber
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Rita Liao, writing for TechCrunch:
Any organization that needs to produce content is on WeChat, from state media to fashion brands. The online media landscape in the U.S. is a lot more diverse. People read news on news apps, seek thought leadership on LinkedIn and encounter brands’ stories through blogs. The majority of businesses in China might not have a website, but they probably maintain a WeChat Public Account.
Over time, Public Accounts has morphed into a digital infrastructure for businesses that’s not unlike Shopify. That was made possible with the launch of WeChat Pay in 2013. While America spent the past decade improving magnetic card-enabled transactions, China never had widespread credit card adoption and went straight from paying with cash to mobile payments using QR codes.
WeChat Pay quickly attracted users in droves by becoming the default payment option for a few popular apps, including ride-hailing upstart Didi and food delivery platform Meituan — which are both backed by Tencent, one of the most prolific corporate investors in the world. Were Musk to start a new payments solution that follows WeChat Pay’s playbook, he’d have to form alliances with other internet giants to drive adoption.
Since writing about this last week, I’ve heard from numerous readers that there are more successful “everything apps” in Asian countries than I alluded to. E.g. Grab in Singapore. But WeChat is clearly the most successful, and the model for Musk’s vaguely defined “X” concept. It can’t be overstated just how essential payments are to WeChat’s dominant role in Chinese life, but that’s because — as Liao writes — China went from cash to QR codes. That’s never going to happen in the U.S. or Europe.
Neither news nor payments are centralized in the West, and we already have cemented leaders in the personal messaging space. Those are the tentpoles of these “everything apps”. Worse still for Musk and his dream of using Twitter to bootstrap such an app is that Twitter DMs are the worst personal messaging service I’ve ever used.
See also: Nitin Pai: “Why an ‘Everything App’ Is Bad News for Liberal Democracies and Free Markets”.
★ Monday, 17 October 2022