Is China developing WeChat fatigue?

Increased functionalities are cluttering the ubiquitous app, 'turning off' end-users.

After dominating both domestic and international rivals, WeChat is now the undisputed 'go-to' app for most Chinese smartphone users. Even as total users rose to 697bn last year, many are concerned that the sprawling platform is becoming congested with additional services, functionalities and advertising.

In January this year, an article appeared from China's official news agency, Xinhua, reporting the development of "WeChat fatigue", as users became overwhelmed with the app's increasingly cluttered interface.

As WeChat offers more to customers, such as QR code scanning, payments, cartoon .gif sharing, video streaming, car hailing and more, many feel the service is now becoming overloaded and has moved too far from its original use as a messaging app.

Commentators fear WeChat could suffer the same fate as Sina Weibo, a once-popular messaging and microblogging app that, in a bid to appease investors by addiing additional revenue streams, began flooding its channels with advertising. Sina Weibo reached its peak in 2011 and is now struggling to add new users.

Currently, WeChat allows just three sponsored "moments" per day. Finding a middle ground between increasing advertising revenues, whilst avoiding alienating loyal users, will no doubt prove difficult. The app contributes $40bn to its parent company Tencent's value, so executives are keen to move carefully.

Despite this, WeChat still reported a 37% jump in its active user numbers in the last quarter of 2015, while advertising revenues also grew by 118% in the same period.