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WeChat has launched an English-language version of its desktop messaging app, despite reportedly scaling back its campaign to attract overseas users. Photo: SCMP Pictures

WeChat launches English-language desktop app targeting overseas users


Mainland China's most popular realtime messaging app has launched an English-language version of its desktop software as it seeks to grow outside of its home market.

On Friday, Tencent's WeChat released an update to its desktop messaging app, first launched in Chinese in January, bringing English-language support along with a number of other features.

The app, available on Windows and Mac OS, requires users to login via their smartphone using a QR code.

"In a world where global communication matters, we understand the value of staying connected outside of your smartphone," WeChat said in a statement. The popular mobile app is available in 20 different languages, covering more than 200 countries and territories.

As of the first quarter of 2015, WeChat has more than 549 million monthly active users, mainly in China. The company does not release regular figures for its overseas user base, but the most recent reports suggest that the amount is between 10 and 20 per cent of total users.

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Following the establishment of a United States office in late 2013, Tencent claimed more than 100 million registered users overseas.

The company spent more than US$200 million on advertising WeChat to overseas users in 2013, including a TV campaign starring Argentinian football star Lionel Messi.

At its most recent earnings report however, Tencent executives said the company was scaling back overseas expansion, with president Martin Lau Chi-ping saying that the aggressive advertising campaign had "sort of come to an end".

"Right now, we do have presence in a number of different overseas markets," Lau said.

"That is still growing sort of nicely, but not as fast as before."

Lau said Tencent’s new approach is to put more investments back into the mainland, where WeChat can be further developed into an ecosystem. That positioning could later help differentiate WeChat in the international markets from other social mobile-messaging applications.