China’s viral metaverse social app Zheli on a roller coaster
Zheli, a Chinese proto-metaverse social app, was launched on 19 January and instantly beat WeChat – China’s No.1 app with over one billion active users, jumping to the top of iOS free app rankings in China on 11 February. On the platform, users can create their 3D avatars and share their daily lives with friends. This pioneering metaverse application immediately became a social media buzzword – you would easily come across friend invitations and avatar images posted on Chinese mainstream social platforms such as WeChat, Little Red Book and Weibo.
Many real-life elements were duplicated into the platform to create an immersive metaverse-like experience.
However, unexpected traffic overwhelmed this new platform, which faced users’ complaints about unstable internet connection and constant crashing. What was even more challenging was merging the real and virtual worlds. Many real-life elements were duplicated into the platform to create an immersive metaverse-like experience but ended up causing controversy over personal data breaches and copyright infringement.
The development team quickly accused whomever the person was of spreading such nasty rumour. On 16 February, they paused user registration and decided to use that opportunity to fix bugs and boost user experience.
Here comes the question, how did this uncomplete metauniverse app suddenly go viral and overtake WeChat – which has been the No.1 in IOS App Store since 2019. More importantly, what can we learn from Zheli’s hit and fail?
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