One of China’s biggest tech conferences, the China Internet Conference, is going on right now, and it should come as a surprise to no one that there has been a lot of discussion of Tencent’s WeChat. The mobile chat app has undeniably taken China by storm, and it’s starting to build an impressive foothold outside the Middle Kingdom too.
But not everyone is impressed with this dominance. At a roundtable discussion at the conference yesterday, Sohu CEO Charles Zhang said that he feels WeChat’s monopoly is ‘awful’ and that he hopes more entrepreneurs will get involved in founding vertical social startups to challenge WeChat for a part of that market. In fact, Zhang may be keen to have a go at it himself; he told the panel that he’s always been interested in social media, which he considers the foundation of the web, but he’s never been able to make it work. But he hopes that the rise of vertical mobile SNS will allow for more communities to arise, and who knows — perhaps Sohu will be the company to create one of them.
Separately, Zhang said that once the problem of mobile payment in China is resolved so that users can all pay simply and smoothly on their mobiles, he expects an explosion in mobile entertainment (like streaming video and mobile games).
Meanwhile, Qihoo CEO Zhou Hongyi publicly appraised Zhang while onstage at the conference, saying that he personally respected Zhang but that he was too nice and “the internet is full of bad people; [Charles Zhang] has run into a lot of them.”