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Top 5 of China’s Most Popular Short Video and Live Streaming Apps

An overview of the most-watched apps in China of this moment.

Gabi Verberg

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The live streaming and short video app market is (still) absolutely booming in China. What’s on Weibo lists China’s most popular apps within this category for you: these are the top Chinese apps to watch.

China is the world’s largest smartphone market, and the mobile app business is booming. In August of last year, it was reported that approximately 800 million people are actively using the internet in China, about 58 percent of the country’s population. What is especially noteworthy is that some 788 million people are accessing the internet via mobile – a total of 98 percent of the China’s total online population.

To attract business from this immense number of mobile internet users, who on average spend some 4.2 hours per day on their phone, thousands of news apps are launched every year. In 2018, Chinese internet users could download 7.3 million different apps – 900.000 more than the year before.

To provide more insight into China’s mobile app market, What’s on Weibo has listed some of the most popular and noteworthy apps in China today. For this selection, we chose to avoid the most obvious popular apps, such as Weibo or WeChat, that are already frequently covered in English-language media.

Instead, we chose to feature those apps that are arguably not as well-known outside of mainland China, within five popular categories, namely: education, health, news, games, and short video & live streaming.

We made our selection based on the data from the Android app stores Tencent, Baidu, Huawei, and Zhushou360. We tried our best to give you a representative overview of various apps that are currently most used in China, but want to remind you that these lists are by no means absolute nor official “top 5” charts.

We will start with our top short video & live streaming list, stay tuned for the other categories that will follow shortly and will be listed below this article!

 

#1 Douyin Short Video 抖音短视频


Douyin, which literally means “trembling sound” (抖音), is a short video social networking app. The app is part of the ByteDance Inc. empire and was first launched in September 2016.

If the logo looks familiar, that may be because you know the popular international version of the app named ‘TikTok,’ which was the fourth most downloaded non-game app worldwide in 2018.

Douyin allows its users to live stream and to upload and view 15-second videos. The app provides several tools to finetune videos by adding various kinds of music, fast forwarding, or adding filters and stickers.

More than just a video and broadcasting app, Douyin is very much interactive, which inherently makes it a social media platform. Videos can be liked, shared and commented on, and people can follow each other. Through its broadcasting feature, users can also send each other money or virtual gifts.

The major ‘magic’ formula behind Douyin is its use of the AI algorithm of its parent company Bytedance Inc (the same company that runs the super popular news app Toutiao). This means the app constantly provides users with suggested content based on user profile and preferences. Adding to this, Douyin is the only app in this selection that automatically plays the next video if the current video you are watching has ended, increasing user engagement with the app.

Douyin’s approach is highly successful. In 2018, Douyin ranked as the tenth most popular app in China, and its popularity continues to grow. From September to December 2018, Douyin’s daily active users increased from 118.7 to 138.5 million.

Douyin currently is the most popular short video app in the Chinese Apple store, and in both the Huawei and Zhushou360 app stores, Douyin ranks second most popular app overall.

Also see our previous article exploring the difference between Douyin and its international version TikTok.

 

#2 Kuaishou 快手


Kuaishou, literally meaning “fast hand,” is also known as ‘Kwai’ and was first launched in 2011 as GIF Kuaishou (GIF快手) and changed its name and function to the current one in 2014.

In 2018, Kuaishou received various investments from Chinese tech giants Tencent, Alibaba, and Baidu, that also sought to profit from China’s growing market of short-video and live stream apps. As with Douyin, Kuaishou has also been successful outside of mainland China. In 2018, the app briefly ranked first in several Apple stores including those in Russia, Turkey, South Korea, Taiwan, and Indonesia.

With Kuaishou, just like Douyin, users can live stream and upload short videos. There are, however, some small differences between the apps. In Kuaishou, videos can be as long as 57 seconds, and the next video will not play automatically; meaning that users have to manually pick the next video they want to watch. Also in the video editing, its functions are different. In the Kuaishou app, users can specifically add filters to faces, and there is also a karaoke function.

In the fourth quarter of 2018, Kuaishou reached the miracle barrier of 100 million monthly active users, showing a modest 2,45 percent growth compared to the third quarter. Currently, Kuaishou is ranking second most popular video app in the Chinese Apple Store, and fifth in the Zhushou360 app store.

 

#3 Xigua Video 西瓜视频


Xigua, which means ‘watermelon,’ is the second-most popular short video app by Bytedance. ‘Eating watermelons’ or ‘the watermelon-eating masses’ (吃瓜群众) is a Chinese idiom that is frequently used by Chinese netizens, meaning that onlookers are interested in watching an (online) spectacle or discussion unfold without intervening.

Being a Bytedance product, Xigua also uses artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to recommend videos to its users. What is different from Douyin, is that Xigua categorizes its videos based on their contents. There are, for example, the categories handicraft, culture, square dancing, cuisine, and fashion. Adding to this, Xigua also offers a live streaming service and a wide variety of television programs and games.

Despite a small decrease in daily active viewers in the last quarter of 2018 from 41.2 million to 38.7 million, Xigua was still the third most popular video app in the Chinese Apple store, closely followed by another app by Bytedance called Huoshan (火山), a short video platform for people to share their stories and showcase their talent.

 

#4 MOMO 陌陌


MOMO is a location-based social networking app where users can show themselves through video, text, voice, and pictures, and discover nearby people based on their geographic location. Despite the company calling the app a social networking platform, for many Chinese netizens, MOMO is simply known as a dating app.

Different from apps such as Douyin and Xigua, MOMO does not show content based on user preference but based on its geographic location. The main page of MOMO shows profiles of people around you, featured with picture and videos. If you see a person that you like, you can add the person or leave a ‘like’ or comment. In addition, the app also provides other functions such as a swipe function, a chat room and a place where you can play games with other users.

MOMO which is part of the Beijing MOMO Technology company, that first launched their app in 2011. Little than a year later, people all over the globe were introduced to MOMO’s international version. But in 2014, when the Chinese version started to gain a significant market share, the company decided to cancel its international edition and focus on its domestic business instead.

In 2018, MOMO acquired the Tinder-like dating app Tantan (探探), which had 6.3 million daily active users in the fourth quarter of 2018.

In the meantime, MOMO has also been growing in popularity, registering 16 million daily active users in 2018, making it the most popular app in the category live streaming and the 88th the most popular app overall – that may not sound too impressive, but within China’s booming app market, it actually is.

 

#5 DouYu Livestream 斗鱼直播


DouYu is an app by DouYu TV and was first launched in 2014. In 2016, DouYu received investments from both Tencent and Phoenix Media.

What mainly sets DouYu apart from other live stream apps, is that it provides its users with live streaming games such as Honor of Kings, Player Unknown’s Battlefield, DOTA and League of Legend. In addition, it also features practical videos such as cooking lessons or camping tutorials.

In 2018, DouYu was the second most popular live streaming app of China, right behind MOMO, with 7.2 daily active users at the end of the year. Currently, the app ranks among the most popular video apps in the Tencent Appstore.

Also see: Top 5 of Popular News Apps

By Gabi Verberg

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

Gabi Verberg is a Business graduate from the University of Amsterdam who has worked and studied in Shanghai and Beijing. She now lives in Amsterdam and works as a part-time translator, with a particular interest in Chinese modern culture and politics.

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    Ruangwith Viwathanatepa

    May 9, 2019 at 11:56 am

    Thank you for you article

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China Digital

From Red Packet to Virtual Hongbao: Lucky Envelopes in China’s Digital Era

Raising virtual cows, shaking with phones – this is the Chinese New Year tradition of giving red envelopes in the digital era.

Things That Talk

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The custom of giving out red paper envelopes has evolved into a world of virtual lucky money and online games. This is the transformation of a Chinese New Year’s tradition, reported by Koen van der Lijn and Xiaojun Zhang.

 
When objects meet social media, two websites meet as well. This is a collaboration between What’s on Weibo and Things That Talk (follow on Insta @thingsthattalk).
 

Ever wanted to raise a digital cow? This year, you can raise your own lucky cow (福牛) for Chinese New Year on Weibo. Through maintaining and raising their virtual cow (or ox), users can participate in this online game to win red envelopes, a well-known and beloved tradition linked to Chinese New Year.

The hashtag “Lucky Cow’s New Year’s Travelogue” (#福牛新春旅行记#) is linked to Weibo’s celebration of Chinese Spring Festival and the Year of the Ox. Users are expected to be active on Weibo daily to raise their cow/ox, similar to the once so popular Tamagotchi. Whilst leveling up their cow, users get the possibility to earn digital red envelopes.

The online game is another development in the story of the red envelopes, known in China as hongbao (红包). Often given during Chinese New Year, the envelopes can also be given at other joyous occasions like weddings. These red envelopes are given to each other by friends and family members to wish each other a happy new year and are always filled with an amount of money.

Red envelopes for sale via Taobao.

The practice of giving money during Chinese New Year goes far back in Chinese history. The earliest form of the red envelope is said to be yasuiqian (压祟钱). In order to keep evil spirits away, called sui (祟), people put money underneath children’s pillow since the evil spirits were said to be warded off by coins.1 These coins were woven together using a string.

Yasuiqian

As time went by and paper money and envelopes became more widespread, string and coins were replaced and the red envelope was created.

Red envelopes are used by Chinese all over the world nowadays. The amount of money inside depends on many factors. Recently, the tradition has left behind its tangible form and entered the digital era.

 

“Adding the thrill of gambling to the practice of giving away red envelopes”

 

In 2014, the popular Chinese messaging app WeChat (微信) launched a new function that allowed users to send virtual red envelopes. Users could send an amount of money directly to another user, or an amount of red envelopes could be sent into a groupchat. When the function launched, users worldwide could shake their phones in order to receive free red envelopes. The amount of money that was given to users surpassed 500 million yuan ($77.5 million).

WeChat’s inventive idea put digital red envelopes on the map in China. During the peak of the event, 800 million shakes were recorded per minute. There were two types of envelopes introduced in 2014 by Tencent, the company that owns WeChat:

1. A regular red envelope that could be sent directly from one user to another.
2. A ‘group’ red envelope, with a limited number to be grabbed and a limited sum of money which can be grabbed by all users in a group if they are fast enough. The sum inside this envelope is randomized, adding the thrill of gambling to the practice of giving away red envelopes.

Other companies also wanted a piece of the digital red envelope cake: Weibo and AliPay combined their strengths a year after WeChat introduced its digital hongbao in order to promote their version of the digital red envelope.

A ‘war’ then broke out between the two companies. AliPay handed out 600 million renminbi ($93 million) worth of red envelopes as a response to WeChat’s 120 million envelopes sent out during the televised celebration of Chinese New Year.2

 

“Digital red envelopes can cross time and place, but cannot replace the method of face-to-face contact”

 

In the years after, the digital red envelope became more and more popular. Weibo and Alipay also came with their version of sending red envelopes online. The companies organized large-scale actions to make users make use of their form of digital red envelopes.

WeChat, for instance, gives users the option to make the red envelopes very personal through adding stickers and personal messages, making the digital red envelope an even more enjoyable experience.

Does this new development of the traditional red envelope make the tangible envelope obsolete?

When asked by the digital newspaper The Paper (澎湃新闻) about whether the digital red envelope might replace its tangible brother, scholar Tian Zhaoyuan (田兆元) of East China Normal University said that the digital red envelope can cross time and place, but cannot replace the method of face-to-face contact. Though friends and family may send one another digital red envelopes, it does not mean that it replaces the tangible red envelopes.3

The tradition of sending red envelopes is and will be inherently linked to Chinese New Year. Though both the paper and digital forms of the tradition remain incredibly popular, the virtual hongbao will definitely win territory once more this year as travel is restricted due to COVID-19. Especially in these times, the digital red envelope is the best digital way of wishing family and friends a happy new year.

Why are ‘lucky envelopes’ not just red, but sometimes also green or purple? Read more via Things That Talk here.

 
By Koen van der Lijn and Xiaojun Zhang

Koen van der Lijn (China Studies, BA) is a ResMa student Asian Studies at Leiden University focused on Chinese history and its international relations. He is a student ambassador at Things That Talk.

Xiaojun Zhang (China Studies, BA) is an MA student Asian Studies at Leiden University focused on contemporary Chinese culture, symbolism and food. For Things That Talk, she currently works on a project about Chinese-Indonesian restaurants in the Netherlands.

This story was made in collaboration with ThingsThatTalk.net – exploring humanities through the life of objects. Things That Talk is an educational digital project where staff and students produce narratives and metadata about objects in Leiden collections and beyond. Check out the story “Hongbao: from paper envelope to digital gift” on Things That Talk here!

 
Footnotes (other sources hyperlinked within the article)

1 Kin Wai Michael Siu. 2001. “Red Packet: a Traditional Object in the Modern World.” Journal of Popular Culture 35 (3), 103.
2 Chen, Liyan. 2015. “Red Envelope War: How Alibaba and Tencent Fight Over Chinese New Year.” Forbes, Feb 19 https://www.forbes.com/sites/liyanchen/2015/02/19/red-envelope-war-how-alibaba-and-tencent-fight-over-chinese-new-year/?sh=1b88bccccddd.
3 The Paper, Zuowei yi zhong “xinnian su”, weixin hongbao hui qudai zhizhi hongbao ma? 作为一种“新年俗”,微信红包会取代纸质红包吗?, https://cul.qq.com/a/20160208/012888.htm.

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Digital

Conversations Behind the Wall: Clubhouse App Now Blocked in China

While the Clubhouse app is no longer accessible from within the PRC, conversations continue behind the wall.

Manya Koetse

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The Clubhouse app became a hot topic among web users in mainland China this weekend. On Monday, the platform was no longer accessible from within the PRC.

On Saturday, we posted an article about the surge in popularity of American ‘drop-in audio chat’ social media platform Clubhouse in mainland China.

As conversations about the popular app continued throughout the weekend, the app was no longer accessible from within mainland China on Monday.

Clubhouse describes itself as “a space for casual, drop-in audio conversations—with friends and other interesting people around the world” where you can “go online anytime to chat with the people you follow, or hop in as a listener and hear what others are talking about.”

The app has virtual rooms and events themed around various topics – anything from politics to music – and lets hundreds of members join conversations as moderators, speakers, or listeners.

The Clubhouse app was developed by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Paul Davison and ex-Google employee Rohan Seth. It was first launched in April 2020 on iOS only, and is still only accessible through iPhone for users who have an invite.

Before Monday, the Clubhouse app was freely accessible from within China for those people who had an invite, but only if they had access to the non-Chinese Apple store to download the app.

The app was a hot topic on various Chinese social media platforms this weekend. On Weibo, the civilized and open character of the Clubhouse conversations were praised, allowing a broader understanding of issues that otherwise remain untouched or are limited within the Chinese social media sphere.

One Chinese-language virtual room about the Xinjiang camps was joined by hundreds of people on Saturday. But besides the room focused on Xinjiang, there were also other rooms where discussions took place about the status of Hong Kong and about issues such as whether or not (overseas) Chinese are willing to return to the mainland and why.

“It is like a small crack in a window,” one person on Weibo said about Clubhouse, while others already predicted the app would become unavailable from within mainland China soon.

When it finally happened on Monday, the responses on Weibo were mainly those of disappointment. “Bye bye Clubhouse,” some Weibo users wrote, with others expressing their surprise: “What?! It was just popular for two days and it’s already blocked? They move so fast it’s scary.”

“I was active on Clubhouse for two days. I didn’t expect it to be shut down so soon already.”

Although many commenters previously expressed that they expected the app to become unavailable within the PRC, the fact that it was shutdown while it was just exploding online comes as a surprise to some, as various commenters write.

The term ‘Clubhouse’ was also temporarily blocked on Weibo by Monday night Beijing time; over the weekend various hashtags relating to the app made their rounds on Chinese social media, but the hashtag pages were no longer online by Monday evening.

‘Clubhouse’ no longer shows results on social media platform Weibo. Screenshot by What’s on Weibo.

Meanwhile, various Chinese-language rooms on Clubhouse discussed the topic of its disappearance in China.

A room titled “Clubhouse is blocked, and now?” was joined by over a hundred people on Monday night. The room “Clubhouse is blocked” attracted over 3000 participants. These conversations are likely to continue for the time to come, but now they must continue behind the Great Firewall of China.

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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