Tencent gearing up for Facebook challenge?

It looks like Chinese internet giant Tencent is gearing up to take on Facebook.

A report indicates plans by the company to offer users links to third-party websites and access to externally-developed applications, mirroring some features of world’s largest social network, Facebook.

Tencent was testing about 10 third-party applications to run on QZone, its social network, and Tenpay, its online payment platform, company president Martin Lau told the Financial Times in an interview.

The firm, which runs the world’s largest instant messaging service QQ, was also testing several external websites that users could link to in the same way Facebook members can link to other sites with the “like” function, the newspaper said.

The move would change the way the company makes money, it said.

Tencent is partly owned by South African media giant Naspers, which has a 35% stake in the Chinese internet company. Ironically, Naspers now also appears to have a small, indirect stake in Facebook via an investment in Russia’s Digital Sky Technologies (DST). Naspers is a US$15-billion company focused on internet investments in emerging markets.

The announcement comes as Tencent scrambles to repair the damage from a fight with Qihoo 360, a local antivirus software provider.

Last month, Tencent suspended services for those QQ users who also had 360 software on their computers.

Tencent said it was defending itself against a malicious software attack, but the move triggered accusations that it had too much power.

Up until now Tencent has focused on selling an ever-growing array of products such as online games and virtual goods to its more than 600-million QQ users.

Lau said Tencent would share the revenues generated by the third-party applications with their developers and expected the traffic to other websites to generate a new advertising business.



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