After a year of avoiding it I decided to bite the bullet and join QQ. QQ is a web service that is like a cross between MSN and Facebook. It’s a chat program and social network site and everyone whose anyone in China has one.
You’ve probably never heard of QQ (or seen its cute little penguin mascot at right) but you are in the minority. There are over 1 billion users, with 500 million of them active. As I’m writing this there are 104,398,774 users on this very minute. It is the 10th most popular website in the world right now according to Alexa.com, and the number two site in China after Baidu (the Chinese Google).
There are two components to QQ. One is a chat feature. When you log in a little box pops up and you can see which of your friends is online. Just double-click on their name and chat away. It’s a simple screen (with a lot of emoticons!) and really easy to use. You can also do video or voice chat for free.
The downside though is obvious. With 500 million active users there is almost always someone online who wants to talk to you. I hadn’t signed up for 5 minutes before I got my first chat request from a stranger. Luckily, you can hide your online status (which I often do). Also, like Facebook, you need to mutually agree to be friends with someone, they can’t just contact you without your permission first. Also, there are QQ groups in which people come together for some reason. Since all the students have QQ every class has it’s own group. I hope to join my classes groups next year as communicating through QQ will be a lot easier than 30 different e-mails!
About a year ago, QQ launched QQ International, an English language version. It’s nice because it has different features than the Chinese version, such as a nciku link (to help with the inevitable translation) and world clock (which you can set to show specific time zones) and daily Chinesepod lessons. Also, since everything is in English you can change the setting, like the high shrill beep you hear when you have a new text, or the creepy VERY lifelike coughing noise when you have a new message.
The other part of QQ is QQzone. It’s your own web page similar to Myspace. You can customize with layouts, pictures and what-not to make it your own. On the main page you see all your friends status updates and you can click through to their QQ zones. There is also a place for photos, a diary function and a music section.
The biggest problem is that QQ zone is not set up for foreigners and the whole thing is in Chinese. Google Translate does an okay job, but often only translates the menu items but not the specific details on the page. So needles to say I’m very confused. Or as I would say on QQ….
An interesting side note is that QQ is one of the only social media websites that have successfully monetized their website. In 2007 while Facebook was dealing with a 50 million dollar loss, QQ had netted over 500 million dollars. And that was back when they had a mere 300,000 members! Now they are raking in over a billion US dollars a year.
So if your curiosity has been piqued and you want to join the hottest trend you’ve never heard of, then head on over here to download the English version.