June 20, 2019

Tech We’re Using: To Cover China, There’s No Substitute for WeChat

What are some hot new apps, tech products or internet services in China?

The hottest app is a short video service, Douyin, which is called TikTok outside China. As my colleague Kevin Roose aptly put it in a recent column, it’s “a quirky hybrid of Snapchat, the defunct video app Vine and the TV segment ‘Carpool Karaoke.’”

To be honest, I’m too old for the app — Douyin targets urban teenagers and 20-somethings — and have not spent much time on it. But I’ve seen some viral Douyin videos on Weibo and WeChat that are fun and goofy. Some young Chinese told me that they spend hours watching Douyin videos every day, which I would argue is the downside of the app. Its parent company, Bytedance, is very good at using artificial intelligence to push content based on users’ viewing history.

The short video app that I check out from time to time is Douyin’s rival, Kwai. Kwai is popular in small towns and the countryside. You can watch young people chasing geese and getting married in white gowns in front of mud houses. I call Kwai the “Hillbilly Elegy” of China. It’s where you can get a flavor of what China is like outside the biggest coastal cities.

Outside of work, what tech product are you into right now?

I’m a very low-tech person! While my iPhone feels like an extension of my left arm, I don’t use many other electronics. I didn’t own a TV until a year ago and only watch Netflix sometimes. I bought a microwave this year, and it’s the simplest model because I knew I would use it only to reheat food.

My biggest tech wish is for Google, Facebook, Apple or another company to build a technology that can break the Great Firewall, the system of filters and blocks that prevents Chinese from visiting thousands of foreign websites. Instead of kowtowing to the Chinese government’s demands in order to gain access to the market, American tech giants could do something heroic: Liberate hundreds of millions of people from information darkness.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/09/technology/personaltech/china-wechat.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

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