Tencent QQ, also known as QQ, is an instant messaging software service developed by the Chinese company Tencent Holdings Limited. QQ also offers services that provide online social games, music, shopping, microblogging, movies, and group and voice chat software. The logo of the software is a small penguin wearing a red scarf.
|Developer(s)||Tencent Holdings Limited|
|Initial release||February 1999|
8.9.4 (Microsoft Windows) / August 3, 2017
|Available in||Chinese, English, French, Japanese, Korean, Spanish|
|Alexa rank||9 (Global, December 2017)|
|QQ 8.9.4||August 3, 2017||Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, 8.1, 10|
|QQ Mac (Native/International) 6.0.1||July 18, 2017||macOS|
|QQ International 2.11||January 22, 2014||Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, 8.1|
|QQ for Android 7.1.8||August 15, 2017||Android phones|
|QQ International for Android 5.1.2||December 26, 2016||Android phones|
|QQ 7.1.8||August 17, 2017||iOS (iPhone, iPod Touch)|
|QQ HD 6.5.0||January 26, 2017||iOS (iPad)|
|QQ Windows Phone 5.4||May 3, 2016||WP10|
After the threat of a trademark infringement lawsuit by the AOL-owned ICQ, the product's name was changed to QQ (with "Q" and "QQ" used to imply "cute"). The software inherited existing functions from ICQ, and additional features such as software skins, people's images, and emoticons. QQ was first released as a "network paging" real-time communications service. Other features were later added, such as chatrooms, games, personal avatars (similar to "Meego" in MSN), online storage, and Internet dating services.
The official client runs on Microsoft Windows and a beta public version was launched for Mac OS X version 10.4.9 or newer. Formerly, two web versions, WebQQ (full version) and WebQQ Mini (Lite version), which made use of Ajax, were available. Development, support, and availability of WebQQ Mini, however, has since been discontinued. On 31 July 2008, Tencent released an official client for Linux, but this has not been made compatible with the Windows version and it is not capable of voice chat.
In response to competition with other instant messengers, such as Windows Live Messenger, Tencent released Tencent Messenger, which is aimed at businesses.
In 2002, Tencent stopped its free membership registration, requiring all new members to pay a fee. In 2003, however, this decision was reversed due to pressure from other instant messaging services such as Windows Live Messenger and Sina UC. Tencent currently offers a premium membership scheme, where premium members enjoy features such as QQ mobile, ringtone downloads, and SMS sending/receiving. In addition, Tencent offers "Diamond" level memberships. Currently, there are seven diamond schemes available:
The QQ Coin is a virtual currency used by QQ users to "purchase" QQ related items for their avatar and blog. Q Coins are obtained either by purchase (one coin for one RMB) or by using the mobile phone service. Due to the popularity of QQ among young people in China, QQ Coins are gradually becoming accepted by online vendors in exchange for "real" merchandise such as small gifts. This has raised concerns of replacing (and thus "inflating") real currency in these transactions. The People's Bank of China, China's central bank, says it is investigating the possibility of cracking down on Q Coins due to people using Q Coins in exchange for real world goods. Tencent claims the QQ Coin is a mere regular commodity, and is, therefore, not a currency.
Coral QQ, a modification of Tencent QQ, is another add-on for the software, providing free access to some of the services and blocking Tencent's advertisements. In 2006, Tencent filed a copyright lawsuit against Chen Shoufu (aka Soft), the author of Coral QQ, after his distribution of a modified Tencent QQ was ruled illegal. Chen then published his modification as a separate add-on. On 16 August 2007, Chen was detained again for allegedly making profits off of his ad-blocking add-on. His case is pending at Shenzhen Nanshan district court.
In 2009, QQ began to expand its services internationally with its QQ International client for Windows distributed through a dedicated English-language portal.
QQ International offers non-Mandarin speakers the opportunity to use most of the features of its Chinese counterpart to get in touch with other QQ users via chat, VoIP, and video calls, and it provides a non-Mandarin interface to access Qzone, Tencent's social network. The client supports English, French, Spanish, German, Korean, Japanese and Traditional Chinese.
One of the main features of QQ International is the optional and automatic machine translation in all chats.
An Android version of QQ International was released on September 2013. The client's interface is in English, French, Spanish, German, Korean, Japanese and Traditional Chinese. In addition to text messaging, users can send each other images, videos, and audio media messages. Moreover, users can share multimedia content with all contacts through the client's Qzone interface.
The live translation feature is available for all incoming messages and supports up to 18 languages.
QQ International for iPhone and iOS devices was released at the end of 2013, fully equivalent to its Android counterpart.
In the United States, Tencent has partnered with AOL to bring QQ Games as a contender in the US social gaming market. Launched in 2007, QQ Games came bundled with the AIM installer, and competed with AOL's own games.com to provide a gaming experience for the AIM user base.
Tencent launched its web-based QQ formally on 15 September 2009, the latest version of which being 3.0. Rather than solely a web-based IM, WebQQ 3.0 functions more like its own operating system, with a desktop in which web applications can be added.
In 2009, Tencent launched Xiaoyou (校友, 'schoolmate'), its first social network website. In mid-2010, Tencent changed direction and replaced Xiaoyou with Pengyou (朋友, 'friends'), trying to establish a more widespread network, to which extant QQ users could be easily redirected, hence giving Pengyou a major advantage over its competitors. Tencent's social network Qzone is linked to in the International and native versions of QQ.
Using reverse engineering, open source communities have come to understand the QQ protocol better and have attempted to implement client core libraries compatible with more user-friendly clients, free of advertisements. Most of these clients are cross-platform, so they are usable on operating systems which the official client does not support. However, these implementations had only a subset of functions of the official client and therefore were limited in features. Furthermore, QQ's parent company, Tencent, has over successive versions modified the QQ protocol to the extent that it can no longer be supported by most, and perhaps any, of the third-party implementations that were successful in the past (some of which are listed below). As of 2009, none of the developers of third-party clients have publicized any plans to restore QQ support.
Tencent has taken advantage of the popularity of the QQ brand and has set up many Q-Gen stores selling QQ branded merchandise such as bags, watches, clothing as well as toy penguins.
In 2010, Chinese anti-virus company, Qihoo 360, analyzed the QQ protocol and accused QQ of automatically scanning users' computers and uploading their personal information to QQ's servers without the users' consent. In response, Tencent called 360 a malware and denied users of installing 360 access to some of the QQ's services. The Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information reprimanded both companies for "improper competition" and ordered them to come to an agreement.
Some observers have criticized QQ's compliance in the Chinese government's Internet surveillance and censorship. A 2013 report by Reporters Without Borders specifically mentioned QQ as allowing authorities to monitor online conversations for keywords or phrases and track participants by their user number.
Both the Chinese and International versions of QQ had been tested.
On March 6, 2015, QQ scored 2 out of 7 points on the Electronic Frontier Foundation's secure messaging scorecard. It received points for having communications encrypted in transit and for having a recent independent security audit. It lost points because communications are not end-to-end encrypted, users can't verify contacts' identities, past messages are not secure if the encryption keys are stolen (i.e. the service does not provide forward secrecy), the code is not open to independent review (i.e. the code is not open-source), and the security design is not properly documented.