Last week a man in Shanghai was jailed for six months after he was found to have stolen an iPhone from a woman with whom he had a one-night stand.
As it turns out, the man had met his victim through Tencent’s mobile messaging tool Weixin in November. After exchanging several text messages, the pair decided to meet up at a subway station. They shared a beer, and then more. The next day she discovered her phone was gone.
Weixin, which allows users to send text messages and videos for free using GPRS or 3G data, is hugely popular in China. Ma Huateng, Tencent’s chief executive, recently announced that the Weixin app has attracted 100 million users in just over a year.
So how does Weixin work? What differentiates the Chinese app from other mobile messaging applications like Whatsapp and Kik is that it comes with a location-based function. So when Weixin is activated, users can find one another within a one kilometre radius.
Many people are now using Weixin to flirt, says the Economic Observer, and it’s not too difficult to spot who wants some action. Men tend to use expensive sports cars as their profile pictures. Some women have taken to posting pictures of themselves in suggestive poses, such as leaning against a Ferrari, to catch attention.
According to the EO, it’s mostly men taking the initiative. After checking out the Weixin profiles of women nearby they will ping them (known locally as yue pao – a term that translates literally as an “appointment bang”). The newspaper adds that “concerns about morals are in relatively short supply”.
Others say that the name of the application implies that it is intended for hook-ups. Weixin also happens to sound a lot like the phrase wei xing or “for sex” (although Weixin actually translates to “tiny messages”).
Certainly the use of Weixin for one-night stands reflects an increasingly promiscuous society. In a survey last month by Insight China – a magazine affiliated with the Communist Party – 71% said they’d had premarital sex. By comparison, only 15% said they’d had sex before marriage in a 1989 survey.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Tencent’s mobile app also faces competition in its ‘niche’ market.
Take Momo, another Chinese smartphone app that uses GPS to help users find out who is nearby and willing to chat.
According to Tech In Asia, a technology blog, the app has rapidly attracted 2.1 million subscribers. The name Momo also has broader implications, suggesting meetings between strangers. But somewhat more wholesomely, Momo claims that it has brought about a number of marriages between couples that have met via its services.
Keeping track: in issue 145, WiC wrote about Momo, a mobile application that resembles the popular US dating (or hookup) app Tinder in helping users find prospective dates and friends located close to them. The company, which now has over 120 million registered users, is planning a US IPO this year, says the Wall Street Journal. Momo is now valued around $2 billion, five times its market value in 2012 when it was given a valuation of $40 million, says Tech In Asia, a technology blog.
If it does float, Momo will have to shrug off accusations from newspapers like Xinhua that it hosts offers for sex workers. When one of its reporters opened the app in Beijing’s Sanlitun bar street, he found “a large number of photos of seductive women… [who] were either wearing bikinis to show off their physiques or taking selfies from angles to emphasise their beauty,” Xinhua claimed. May 16, 2014
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