Tencent becoming global Internet player through innovation
Despite copycat charges at the inception of its flagship QQ chat program, Shenzhenbased Tencent Inc has been blazing a path of its own innovation.
The latest official recognition was a gold medal awarded by the State Intellectual Property Office in November for a patent on technology that improves peer- to- peer connectivity and efficient use of bandwidth.
With at least half of Internet traffic P2P data, the patent approved in 2004 has played a big role in improving the Tencent user experience in downloads and data transfers, said Wang Huotao, head of the company’s intellectual property department.
“For example, music lovers feel it is really fast to download a song from our website. (Downloading) several megabytes takes just seconds,” said Wang.
“Actually, the more people that download a piece of music, the faster they will get it.”
That makes a big difference as statistics from the company show that at any moment last year more than 10 million users were using its QQ Music.
Wang said those who watch videos, play online games and download files are benefiting because such files need much larger amount of data.
According to Tencent, the technology helped its QQ Download save on average 150 gigabytes of bandwidth daily, with the peak value reaching 882 gigabytes.
It is not the first time Tencent has won awards for its innovation.
“So far we have won two gold prizes and seven other awards from SIPO,” said Wang, who established the company’s IP department in 2003 and has since headed it.
Wang said the move also made Tencent the first Internet company in China to have a team dedicated to IP and patents. He said most dot-com companies did not start such work until 2008.
He said Tencent has actually emphasized innovation since its establishment in 1998.
Confronting the rumor that the company’s instant messaging software QQ was a copycat of ICQ developed by an Israeli company, Wang said they are different in many aspects. A fundamental difference is that QQ stores data on servers rather than on personal computers like ICQ.
“ICQ would not work in China as most people in the late 1990s and early 2000s did not have personal computers.”
According to Tencent’s website, there were nearly 800 million active QQ accounts as of Dec 31, 2012, making it one of the most popular social media worldwide.
It is probably the largest number of users in the country, said Wang, adding Tencent also has the most patents among China’s Internet companies.
Since 2001 Tencent has filed more than 8,000 patent applications worldwide, a quarter of them outside China. About 1,400 have been approved.
“Among China’s Internet companies, we are No 1 in number of patent applications. Worldwide, we are at the same level as Google and Yahoo.”
Despite its achievements, the company is making even greater effort in its patent-related work. It will increase investment in patent applications and maintenance in 2014 in what “will be one of the largest patent budgets in China”, Wang said.
QQ is now a popular social media worldwide.