Can social Apps really make money in the end? This puzzle has haunted my mind these days. Momo, one of the hottest social networking Apps right now in China, has gained over 20 million users since its debut in August 2011, even already launched its overseas version; and this company is even said to be valued around USD 100 million. Seriously, can app like this worth that much?

Momo’s Social Fantasy

The birth of Momo was supposed to facilitate the connection and meet-up among strangers nearby. Somehow it has become well known for being a “flirty” or “easy hookup” tool. I believe local media definitely exaggerated its “one night stand” functionality, but such reputation actually spurred more young people, often males with unfulfilled day dreams and females with lonely vanity, to sign up Momo.

The founders of Momo said it is never meant to be a “Find and Flirt” app (it in fact constantly filters out harassing messages and misconduct users). It intends to foster LBS oriented, salubrious relations; help people get to know new people and develop new friends. Nevertheless in Chinese society, where mutual trust and amicability are so flimsy, I am often very pessimistic to see such ideology can work out among pure strangers in this country.

Besides, there are also equivalent social Apps around. Even Wechat(Weixin) integrated quite similar social network functions as well. Yes, someone said the two are quite different, but I would say “potayto and potahto”, just nuances; personal view Wechat is more dynamic and comprehensive.

Now Momo just kicked off a new groups feature that allows users to organize themselves into groups via LBS. The groups’ interests can be “Walk dog together”, “financial investment”, or “startup wannabe” etc. Momo’s “flirty” reputation would be tantalizing in the beginning, but users might get bored soon and trust me from “online easy hookup” to “offline random dating” would never come that easily (bear in mind Momo users’ gender ratio between male and female is 2 to 1). So Momo now has to play the “serious” card hard, working on LBS online communities based on common interests. Will it work? Perhaps.

Momo is climbing up a slippery rope to its social fantasy, and its fall off can happen at any time. I perceive pure social would be extremely difficult to monetize in the long run, unless it can dabble into other direction so as to milk money out of its large user base, i.e. online gaming, as what Tencent has achieved. But will Momo become a company like Tencent? I highly doubt at this moment.    


By Cécilia Wu
English & Chinese Editorial Manager