Zheli, China’s viral metaverse social app halts downloads

Zehli is a very new app in China. Topping the App Store in China is an impressive feat to achieve for a newcomer app. Just three days after achieving this, Zheli was pulled out from the app stores across the country. It was done by the owners to address some controversies.

What is Zheli?

Zheli means “gel” in English. It is a 3D avatar maker that allows users to share their daily lives with friends and shows users’ approximate location and mode.  The user has fashionable characters and outfit options to create a customized avatar in the app. It became an instant hit in China after its launch in January. Zheli allows users to add up to 50 friends via the app.

Metaverse behind the quick rise?

The gaming world is all about metaverse these days. Zheli’s emergence has further fueled the ongoing metaverse frenzy in the country, which has been building momentum since last year. And, the quick rise of Zheli, within a month of its launch is a rare success story in China’s social networking industry. Mainly because it has been long dominated by Tencent’s super app WeChat.

On Feb. 11, Zheli replaced WeChat as the most downloaded app in the App Store in China with a record high of 435,000 downloads. It’s the first time an app has taken the top download ranking from WeChat since 2019. Chinese tech giants Baidu, Tencent, and ByteDance have been investing and developing metaverse features and services in the wake of the global metaverse craze. China’s metaverse social networking companies also include Soul and ByteDance’s Party Island.

More Details

Right now, Zheli’s communication functions are limited to photos and microblogging. Whereas, the mainstream platforms offer formats such as long texts, short videos, and emojis.

Beijing Yidian Digital Entertainment Co., Ltd, the operator of Zheli, said in a Feb. 13 announcement that it had removed the app from app stores and suspended new user registration voluntarily to improve the experience for existing users.

The firm cited various stability issues (slow loading time, constant crashes) as the major reason for the removal. But it denied having collected user information without permission when users made friend referrals through third-party messaging tools like WeChat and QQ. Last week, users claimed that the company violated users’ privacy. 

Users can invite new friends on the app either through a phone contact list or WeChat. But it could be a time-consuming experience as WeChat doesn’t support direct link invites and users might have to open browsers to complete the process. 

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