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China suffers withdrawal symptoms thanks to malfunctioning Wechat

“Wechat is down.” On the morning of July 22, whiny complaints dominated Weibo, China’s twitter-like microblogging platform about the sudden breakdown of Wechat, a widely popular mobile text and voice messaging app which boasts a whopping 300 million users in China.

The technical problem affected users in many parts of China, including Beijing, Guangdong, Zhejiang, Shandong, Heilongjiang, and Henan. The “cold turkey” treatment left many carping that they have been “cut off from the world”.

A screen capture of a user's log-on interface of Wechat which shows connection failure on the morning of July 22. Photo:

In the very beginning many users were confused as to what was going on when suddenly they can no longer log onto their trusted Wechat accounts. “I thought my phone was broken.” said one on Weibo. “I deleted and re-installed the app three times but nothing happened.” complained another. “I was almost going to buy a new router ‘cause I thought that was the problem.” another quipped.

As more and more people resorted to Weibo, run by the rival Sina to air their grievances, they soon discovered that Wechat was actually down, not their phone, or their wifi connection. Some found the situation ironic since Weibo’s performance is boosted every time Tencent’s Wechat undergoes technical problems. “I guess the workers at Sina must be praying for more of such malfunctions because it will save their KPI (key performance indicator).” joked a Weibo user.

Wechat responded through its official account @腾讯微信团队 on Weibo two hours after the initial breakdown at around 7:30 am, saying that the breakdown was caused by “network fault” and reassured its many users that their tech team is “fighting desperately ” to restore the normal functioning of Wechat.

At 11am, another Weibo post by Wechat revealed that the problem had been identified as a hardware failure on two lines of optical cables which the technicians were still trying to fix.

Meanwhile, the Chinese were feeling as if the end of the world was near. @胖哥江昭融 said, “I can’t log on to Wechat. And I’ve lost my appetite and the will to go to work.” @C_冭Tai agreed, “Me too! Without Wechat, life is boring and dismal.”

But @任泉, a popular Chinese actor had a different view than those apparent “addicts” to Wechat, “Is Wechat the only way to reach people? One App down and everybody is panicked. This world can’t be a good place to live anymore.”

In fact, such addiction is recognized by the western researchers as a recent study at the University of Winchester in the UK showed that in the digital age, social media is increasingly becoming a fact of life, but it pointed out that heavy use of social networks “is not necessarily dangerous”, according to a report on the study by The Telegraph in April 2013.

Wechat was launched by Tencent in January 2011. Within two years, its users reached 300 million. Thanks to its unique hold-to-talk voice messaging function, which is free to all,  and the similar social networking function compared with Weibo, it is rapidly gaining popularity in China, posing a serious threat to Weibo whose many users have openly stated in their posts that they only go back to use their Weibo accounts when Wechat does not work properly.

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