Tencent, one of China’s largest Internet service portals, will roll out an English language social networking site in February 2011.
The company also now offers an international version of its instant messaging service, QQ International, in English, Japanese, and French. Tencent is not charging users for its instant messaging client service; it will also be free of advertisements.
Marc Violo, product manager of QQi, said Tencent is first focused on growing organically and targeting the “early adopting international community” instead of generating revenue.
QQi is not designed to compete with other existing instant messaging clients such as MSN or Skype but positioned as a tool for business people and graduate students worldwide who wish to develop their network and get involved in opportunities in China, said Violo.
Since its beta version targeting foreigners living in China rolled out a little more than a year ago, 2 million registered accounts were created.
According to internal statistics as of November 2010, daily unique users for the instant messenger are estimated at 167,000. And out of the 1.3 million active accounts, 35 percent are made up of Chinese who speak English while the rest is comprised of foreigners from more than 200 countries.
Tencent executives said QQi, its multi-language instant messaging service, will provide a bridge to 600 million active Chinese-language users on QQ.
In addition to its instant messaging functionality, QQi provides users with free apps for China-related news, language learning tools, events, travel deals, directories, and videos.
Violo said when Tencent launches its English language social networking site early next year, it aims to attract foreign brands to set up fan pages similar to Facebook’s offering on its SNS site.
It will also be integrated with QQi instant messenger and its existing information portal, www.imqq.com, to allow global brands to reach its higher-end QQ users, which he described possess an international perspective and would tend to be more responsive to Western brands.
Although Facebook has more than 500 million active users worldwide, the social network is blocked in China.
Tencent, founded in November 1998, is one of China’s largest Internet platforms that also includes QQ Games, Qzone (social network), SoSo (search engine), PaiPai (e-commerce) and Tenpay.
Violo said that while the tech global community recognizes Tencent, the latest initiatives will enable the company to seed its brand name and reach out to early adopters in the wider international community.
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