Ali­pay gam­bit

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By MENG JING mengjing@chi­nadaily.com.cn

The mo­bile pay­ment com­pany is test­ing a so­cial net­work­ing fea­ture in an at­tempt to take on mes­sag­ing app WeChat.

Ali­pay, one of China’s most widely used dig­i­tal wal­lets, is test­ing a new so­cial net­work­ing fea­ture in its lat­est at­tempt to take on WeChat, the coun­try’s lead­ing mes­sag­ing app.

The mo­bile pay­ment tool, run by Ant Fi­nan­cial Ser­vices Group, an af­fil­i­ate of Alibaba Group Hold­ing Ltd, has rolled out the newser­vice that al­lows some of its users to stay up­dated on top­ics of in­ter­est to them and get in touch with peo­ple who share these in­ter­ests on­line.

Ali­pay said in a state­ment on Mon­day that the ser­vice, named Quanzi or Cir­cle in English, is de­signed to build real-name on­line com­mu­ni­ties that help users get ac­quainted with strangers more com­fort­ably via the com­pany’s big-data en­abled credit rat­ing sys­tem.

“Trust is the key is­sue in the so­cial net­work­ing scene among strangers in China. Any­one in Quanzi is us­ing their real name and their on­line credit scores can also be checked for ref­er­ence, which pro­vides ice­break­ers to make com­mu­ni­ca­tion more eas­ily,” said Ali­pay, which boasts 450 mil­lion real-name users.

The move is seen by an­a­lysts as Alibaba’s lat­est ef­fort in so­cial net­work­ing, an area in which its ri­val Ten­cent Hold­ings Ltd does par­tic­u­larly well, with WeChat, its mo­bile mes­sag­ing app with more than 800 mil­lion users.

Wang Xiaofeng, se­nior an­a­lyst with For­rester Re­search, said that it is very dif­fi­cult for late ar­rivals to boost their mar­ket share in the so­cial net­work­ing mar­ket. But, Alibaba has never given up its hope in this field af­ter years of ef­forts of rolling out all kinds of mes­sag­ing ser­vices, such as Lai­wang and DingTalk.

“With WeChat grow­ing big­ger and big­ger to in­clude pay­ment into its ser­vices, it­makes sense for Ali­pay launch a counter at­tack to step up its ef­fort in so­cial net­work­ing,” she said.

De­spite its ef­fort, whether or not Quanzi can grow into some­thing im­por­tant still re­mains to be seen, said Lu Zhen­wang, an in­ter­net ex­pert based in Shang­hai.

“WeChat is a so­cial net­work­ing tool for close friends while Weibo is a so­cial play­ground for com­plete strangers. Ali­pay is try­ing to build some­thing in be­tween, which re­quires hard work,” he said.

450mil­lion num­ber of real-name users of Ali­pay, the third-party pay­ment ser­vices by Alibaba Group

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