Fullscreen capture 09-06-2015 102129

Tencent’s instant messaging service WeChat has released an English version of its Windows desktop app, with new features for group chats and recall messages, in a bid to target users worldwide. The service is also available on Mac and supported on multiple browsers. Earlier this year, WeChat had launched its desktop app, which was available across all major mobile platforms, but in Chinese.

Users can access the app at web.wechat.com on any browser and scan the QR code after logging in via smartphone web option within the app to pair it with the web client.  Note that this web client will just be mirroring all conversations and messages from its mobile app, which means all the messages, will continue to remain primarily on the user’s mobile phone.  Users need to have an active internet connection for the web client to work.

The English version lets users share files with other WeChat users on desktop or mobile. WeChat also adds that it has a screenshot tool that lets users capture an image and send it to a contact instantly, using controls within the app.

Implication: This web app would likely make things significantly easier for brands, celebrities and news organizations among others to engage with their audience. For example, during last year’s General Elections in India, BBC started pushing out audio bulletins and other updates related to Indian elections via WhatsApp, WeChat and BBM. However, it took them a lot more time on WhatsApp since it didn’t have a desktop version, due to which all the editorial activities had to be done through a mobile phone. With a web app, such campaigns can be planned and executed better.

WhatsApp’s web app: WhatsApp launched its web app for Google Chrome, in January this year. It later added support for Opera and Firefox browsers as well. In April, WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum had claimed that WhatsApp now has over 800 million monthly active users (MAUs), up from 700 million MAUs in January and 600 million MAUs in August last year. In November last year, WhatsApp claimed to have reached 70 million MAUs in India. This was up from 65 million Indian MAUs in August last year, indicating that the company had added five million MAUs in two months.

WeChat currently claims to have over 500 million MAUs globally. However, it doesn’t disclose India-specific numbers, so it’s not clear how many active WeChat users are there in the country.

Other developments

– In November last year, Tencent had launched dedicated VoIP calling apps Dianhua & Lightalk for Chinese and international users respectively. This service is not yet available in India. WeChat already allows users to make voice over internet protocol (VoIP) calls over Wi-Fi or the phone’s network connection.

– WeChat released an API that would allow mobile apps to connect with their corresponding WeChat official accounts, also in November. This API will allow developers to add an entry point in their apps to redirect users to their respective official accounts on WeChat.