The once famously encrypted chat app WhatsApp, has today made the news as it has been announced that after four years of ownership, Facebook could be about to bypass the privacy encryptions.
Though tech giant Facebook have stated that they are committed to WhatsApp’s encryption, it has been discovered that they could bypass it by fishing key words in messages. This would be done to enable Facebook’s goal of finally monetising the app with ads, which is the primary reason the app’s co-founder Brian Acton left the company in September 2017.
In light of this privacy bypass for profit, and the recent UN assembly where the US’ Mr Trump added to the ongoing trade war with China, now might be an interesting time to look at another technology firm. One that came within a hairs breadth of owning WhatsApp four years ago; Tencent.
The rise of Tencent in Asia
Tencent is a Chinese company based in the city of Shenzhen. Late last year it became the first Asian technology firm to reach the $500 billion valuation mark, and a day later they surpassed Facebook in terms of market value. This was two months after Brian Acton left WhatsApp. Though the outcome might not have been any different had Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg not finalised the deal in a panicked last minute bid of $19 billion to prevent the Chinese giant gaining a hold in the international market.
To start with, for those that know little about the company, Tencent primarily owes its astronomical rise to power to its chat app, WeChat, and its mobile gaming franchise, the World’s largest of its kind. These coupled with the difficulty foreign companies have with China’s “Great Firewall”, has enabled it to rise high enough to challenge top US firms. WeChat is a far cry from the encrypted WhatsApp it sought to own, it is far larger and infinitely more advanced. With an eco-system so broad it enables users to schedule bank appointments, pay fines, apply for visas, and use its’ payment systems.
Given the WeChat model, it is easily assumed that the tech firm would have aimed to implement similar changes to WhatsApp – Brian Acton’s decision to leave WhatsApp due to infringements on users’ encrypted privacy might still have come to pass.
However it is not the ghost of what might have been that makes Tencent currently worth looking into. Rather it is the news that their music entertainment branch Tencent Music are slated for a US IPO in October 2018.
Tencent Music owns China’s most popular apps for music streaming, and is often compared to Sweden’s own Spotify, with which it has a cross shareholding deal. Yet it differs greatly by the scope of its services; beyond simply streaming music it offers a social community that boasts live streams of music and even live broadcasting of karaoke where viewers can tip performers.
It is a company whose progress is well worth keeping an eye on as its presence in the Western market continues to grow.