China Business News, 3/25/14
According to an industry source, Chinese e-commerce conglomerate Alibaba Group is reducing investment in its Laiwang mobile instant messaging app, and may abandon the business entirely.
An Alibaba insider has provided a contrasting report, stating that Alibaba does not plan to abandon Laiwang, and that senior management has not expressed intentions to reduce investment in the product. According to the source, Alibaba plans to adjust its Laiwang development strategy, focusing on long term active user growth as opposed to short term app download growth.
Laiwang has established R&D centers in Beijing, Shenzhen, and Shanghai. According to Laiwang, the app's Beijing branch has several dozen technical staff already in place. Alibaba also plans to establish a Laiwang team in Silicon Valley at the company's overseas research center.
According to recent job seekers in contact with Laiwang, Alibaba plans to release a new version of the Laiwang app in April that will feature a major restructuring of current app features. Alibaba led a recent round of investment in US messaging app Tango, and may be considering utilizing Tango technology to add video messaging features to Laiwang.
Alibaba held a series of large-scale promotions for Laiwang beginning in September 2013, spending as much as RMB 200 mln on the promotion of the app, according to incomplete statistics.
Editor's Note: For more background on this topic, please see "Alibaba Invests USD 215 Mln in Messaging App Tango" MD 3/20/14 issue, "Alibaba to Allocate RMB 200 Mln for Laiwang Promotion" MD 1/03/14 issue.