Alipay, one of China's most widely used digital wallets, is testing a new social networking feature in its latest attempt to take on WeChat, the country's leading messaging app.
The mobile payment tool, run by Ant Financial Services Group, an affiliate of Alibaba Group, rolled out the new service that allows some of its users to stay updated on topics of interest to them and get in touch with people who share these interests online.
Alipay said in a statement last Monday that the service, named Quanzi, or Circle in English, is designed to build real-name online communities via the company's big-data enabled credit rating system.
"Trust is the key issue in the social networking scene among strangers in China. Anyone in Quanzi is using their real name and their online credit scores can also be checked for reference," said Alipay.
The move is seen by analysts as Alibaba's latest effort in social networking, an area in which its rival Tencent Holdings Ltd does particularly well, with WeChat, its mobile messaging app with more than 800 million users.
Wang Xiaofeng, senior analyst with Forrester Research, said that it is very difficult for late arrivals to boost their market share in the social networking market. But, Alibaba has never given up its hope in this field.
"With WeChat growing bigger and bigger, it makes sense for Alipay launch a counter attack to step up its effort in social networking," she said.