January 15, 2019 / 10:31 AM / 5 months ago

China's ByteDance launches video chat app, moves in on Tencent's turf

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China’s ByteDance Technology unveiled a new video messaging app called Duoshan, a move which analysts say will see it muscling into a space dominated by Tencent’s WeChat messenger.

FILE PHOTO: Visitors are seen at the booth of Bytedance Technology, which owns news aggregator app Jinri Toutiao and short video app Tik Tok, or Douyin, at the China International Software Expo in Beijing, China June 29, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

ByteDance is one of China’s fastest growing start-ups and owns the country’s leading news aggregator Jinri Toutiao and short video platform TikTok. It is considering an IPO in Hong Kong this year, Reuters has reported.

Xu Luran, the company’s product director, debuted Duoshan at a live-streamed event in Beijing on Tuesday, during which she showed the app’s chat functions and a feature allowing users to send videos to each other that will disappear after 72 hours.

The purpose of Duoshan, which does not have a like or comment function, is to reduce the pressure users feel they are under to present their best self on social media, Xu said, adding it is targeted at young Chinese users born after 1990.

The fact that the video will be visible only to the user after three days “will reduce social pressure, allow you to free your true personality and not worry that you’re ‘digging a grave’ for your future”, ByteDance said.

Founded by entrepreneur Zhang Yiming in 2012, Bytedance counts venture firm Sequoia Capital, big private-equity firms such as KKR, General Atlantic and Hillhouse Capital Group as backers, sources have told Reuters.

In August last year, sources said that Bytedance aimed to raise about $3 billion in a funding round, which would have seen its valuation soar to as high as $75 billion.

The start-up’s quick rise has put pressure on many Chinese internet companies, most notably Tencent, whose WeChat app has faced few serious challengers since it launched in 2011.

Tencent recently released a video clip feature as well as news reading function on WeChat.

Tencent did not respond to requests for comment.

Matthew Brennan, who tracks China’s social media sector at tech consultancy China Channel, says Duoshan resembles U.S. Snap Inc’s Snapchat that is known for disappearing messages.

Duoshan is Bytedance’s first foray into messaging, Brennan added, a turf dominated by tech giant Tencent’s WeChat.

“Bytedance wants to build out a social graph, which is one of the hardest things to do,” he said. “Tencent’s entire empire is built on the fact they own the social graph.”

Chen Lin, Jinri Toutiao’s chief executive, however, told the event that he hoped WeChat would not see Duoshan as a rival.

“Duoshan and WeChat are different products, they face different groups,” he said.

Duoshan’s launch follows that of Bullet Messenger, another Chinese messaging app that racked up millions of downloads after it was launched in September. Some analysts have described Bullet as a potential challenger to WeChat.

Reporting by Josh Horwitz, additional reporting by Brenda Goh and Shanghai Newsroom; Editing by Himani Sarkar

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