Chinese AI social media apps see demand rise in overseas markets amid slow mainland adoption


Shanghai-based generative AI startup MiniMax, which counts Alibaba as a major investor, has succeeded in the US on the back of its popular Talkie app. — SCMP

A number of Chinese artificial intelligence (AI) companies are seeing greater demand for their social media applications in overseas markets, as adoption on the mainland has been slower by comparison.

Shanghai-based MiniMax – a generative AI start-up that counts South China Morning Post owner Alibaba Group Holding as a major investor – has become a prime example of such overseas success on the back of its Talkie app, which saw its traffic more than double to 1.32 million views in May, according to AIcpb.com, a site that tracks the popularity of AI products worldwide.

The Talkie AI app, which competes in a market segment led by Character.ai, enables users to customise avatars and interact with virtual chat buddies. Although Character.ai reached 318 million views last month, Talkie’s more than 150% monthly growth rate was faster than its rival’s 21.6 % monthly growth rate, according to AIcpb.com.

Meanwhile, the Talkie app’s Chinese version, Xingye, amassed just 422,000 views in May, AIcpb.com data showed.

Avatars created by users on the Talkie app. Photo: SCMP

The comparatively weak showing of the app’s mainland version is in stark contrast to the growing momentum for Chinese generative AI apps in international markets.

In the United States, for example, Talkie has been ranked among the top six entertainment apps on Apple’s App Store since May 20, according to market intelligence provider Data.ai.

The ranking of Chinese version Xingye, according to Data.ai, shifted between 29th and 8th place on the mainland App Store’s social networking category during the same period.

MiniMax co-founder Yan Junjie, a former executive at Chinese AI giant SenseTime, last month said there was “more free competition in many foreign markets” because the mainland is dominated by Big Tech firms, according to a report by local tech media GeekPark.

It is a trend that Chinese Big Tech firms are also aware of. Tencent Music Entertainment, the online music unit of internet giant Tencent Holdings, announced that the mainland operations of its Weiban AI chatbot will cease from Friday, as the app will focus on growing in overseas markets.

Meanwhile, MiniMax application Glow and Alienchat – co-developed by start-up Alient Intelligence and BosiCloud, an Amazon Web Services partner in Shenzhen – have been removed from mainland app stores. Those two apps were used to create personalised AI companions.

Founded in 2021, MiniMax is one of mainland China’s “four new AI tigers”, which include Baichuan, Zhipu AI and Moonshot AI. – South China Morning Post

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