I have a confession to make, I'm too harsh on Ben's Blog much of the time, no, no, its true. His blog does serve its purpose and from time to time makes me think, and, like in this case, it sometimes leads me to come up with an entry of my own on a day my mind is blank.
Today, Ben offers a good introduction to the chat software, QQ (previously talked about on this blog here). The QQ craze took over China in the late 90s, the country was awash in penguins, and it even led to the introduction of a clothing line, amazing success when we're talking about nothing more than a chat software. Can you imagine guys buying the MSN person logo for their girlfriend? Or tshirts with the ICQ flower on it? But that indeed is how powerful QQ was at that time. Since then, like all fads, it has died down, though the majority of teenage Chinese still regularly use and exchange QQ numbers.
The QQ trend ends at the teenage years, though, as the majority of urban Chinese outgrow it right around the age they enter university. After that, the majority of white collar Chinese university graduates would never dare admit to having a QQ number and, if they do, they will have "forgotten" it a long time ago. Why? For the urban, white collar employee, MSN is the choice. This is for a number of reasons, namely foreign (and increasingly Chinese companies) use MSN for intra-office communication, MSN is more stable, and MSN fails to have the annoyances that go along with QQ including lots of pop-up ads and random people adding you. Its as if part of the tradition of entering college nowadays is shedding your QQ number and not looking back.
That said, look at what people in the 3rd-tier cities or what the staff in urban offices are using and you'll often times find that penguins (QQ) outnumber people (MSN). This is even more apparent than the oft-discussed Myspace-Facebook battles in the US. It shares some similarities in the High School (Myspace/QQ) vs. University (MSN/Facebook) sense, but there is also the overwhelming white collar (MSN) vs. blue collar (QQ) battle that goes on in China that doesn't exist in the US.
I'm not a sociology major and so I can't go into all the issues this divide will bring about, though I think a very interesting research paper/study could be done on the issue. For all you Laowai who are arriving as students or have studied and are now starting to work in China, your choice of chat software says something about you, be careful that its saying what you want it to!