App of All Trades
Frankenstein's monster was recognized as an abomination. Conversely, Frankenstein's app - WeChat - is an inspiration to tech companies. Equal parts message, payment, and mini-app platform, it has become inescapable and all-consuming. Add the runaway success of Bytedance's Douyin/TIktok, and now seemingly every app entertains Promethean fantasies of being all things to all people, with valuations to match.
Hence the current Darwinian mayhem of Chinese apps such as Douyin-rival Kuaishou rushing into ecommerce, while WeChat itself struggles to bolt on a Tiktok limb. Like Frankenstein, they venture abroad, hell-bent on global market share.
"There is no formula for WeChat's wildly successful vivisection, or for Douyin going viral overseas as TikTok," says Jimmie Jeremejev. "Let's keep in mind Tencent and Baidu's vaunted challenge to Alibaba back in 2012, and how that flopped. App-use is driven by innovation, not the willingness of their parent companies to burn capital promoting and expanding them."