China’s Digital Wallets Offer a Glimpse at the Future of Payments
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China’s Digital Wallets Offer a Glimpse at the Future of Payments

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Chinese consumers conduct 11 times more mobile payments than their counterparts in the United States, so as we look to the future of digital wallets, China is a natural place to start.

Mobile Payments USA vs. China

Forecasts for mobile payment adoption in the United States remain flat for now; however, two major brands – WeChat and AliPay – offer a glimpse of what the future may eventually hold for mobile payments in North America.

Digging Through WeChat’s Wallet

WeChat, a platform owned by Tencent, is a force to be reckoned with. It’s fast closing in on one billion monthly active users (MAUs), and the average user spends over an hour on the app each day.

WeChat users aren’t just unusually chatty – there’s actually a high level of utility to the platform that North American apps have yet to match. WeChat’s wallet alone is packed with features ranging from mobile payments to ride hailing. Below is a look at just some of the features.

WeChat Overview

WeChat’s wallet is packed with features that are constantly evolving, but here are some current features worth noting:

Payments in the real world
“Scan-and-pay” is widely popular in China, particularly in big cities where it’s hard to find a product or a service that cannot be purchased with a mobile device. According to China Channel, over 90% of Chinese consumers have adopted WeChat as a method of payment in offline purchases. That compares with a 32% adoption rate for debit and credit cards.

Red Packets
WeChat has seen tremendous growth of its wallet by capitalizing on China’s tradition of gifting cash-filled red envelopes (known as hongbao). In fact, the volume of digital red packets sent has skyrocketed from 16 million to 14.2 billion in only three years.

Digital red packets

Digital Tip Jar
WeChat also offers a glimpse at a new avenue for content creators to monetize their hard work online. WeChat’s Tip Jar feature allows users to send micro-payments to writers, musicians, artists, and more.

Go Dutch
Splitting the bill in a busy restaurant or pub setting can be major hassle. “Go Dutch” is a feature that allows WeChat users to divvy up a bill and pay using the app. Features like Go Dutch make digital payments an appealing option because they solve a real world problem.

Third-Party Apps
WeChat has robust third-party integration within its wallet. Functionality is so deep that users can order anything from transportation to home cleaning services with the push of a button. China’s largest e-commerce, group buy, and ride hailing companies are already on these platforms, but Western brands like Starbucks are getting in on the action too.

Going Head-To-Head

The mobile payments sector is becoming increasingly binary as WeChat and AliPay dogfight for market share. AliPay – Ant Financial’s payment brand – was once the undisputed leader in mobile payments, but the company has recently seen its market share eroded by an increasingly scrappy WeChat. WeChat has smartly leveraged its popularity and massive user base to get people using it as a payment tool as well.

Market share of digital wallets

ApplePay, which had high hopes for the Chinese market, continues to lag far behind domestic brands.

Growing Pains for Digital Wallets

China’s central bank recently imposed tougher rules regarding scan-and-go payments, a move that Ant Financial and Tencent are publicly praising, but that may dampen the meteoric growth trajectory of mobile payments. The new regulations take aim at aggressive tactics used to capture market share from competitors, and set limits on how much consumers can spend daily using barcode-based payments.

Despite growing pains, mobile payments and digital wallets will continue to be a dominant part of the Chinese economy. The only question is, when will the rest of the world follow suit?

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How Big Tech Revenue and Profit Breaks Down, by Company

How do the big tech giants make their money? This series of graphics shows a breakdown of big tech revenue, using Q2 2022 income statements.

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In the media and public discourse, companies like Alphabet, Apple, and Microsoft are often lumped together into the same “Big Tech” category. After all, they constitute the world’s largest companies by market capitalization.

And because of this, it’s easy to assume they’re in direct competition with each other, fiercely battling for a bigger piece of the “Big Tech” pie. But while there is certainly competition between the world’s tech giants, it’s a lot less drastic than you might imagine.

This is apparent when you look into their various revenue streams, and this series of graphics by Truman Du provides a revenue breakdown of Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft.

How Big Tech Companies Generate Revenue

So how does each big tech firm make money? Let’s explore using data from each company’s June 2022 quarterly income statements.

Alphabet

breakdown of Alphabet's revenue streams and profit

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In Q2 2022, about 72% of Alphabet’s revenue came from search advertising. This makes sense considering Google and YouTube get a lot of eyeballs. Google dominates the search market—about 90% of all internet searches are done on Google platforms.

Amazon

breakdown of amazon's revenue streams and profit

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Perhaps unsurprisingly, Amazon’s biggest revenue driver is e-commerce. However, as the graphic above shows, the costs of e-commerce are so steep, that it actually reported a net loss in Q2 2022.

As it often is, Amazon Web Services (AWS) was the company’s main profit-earner this quarter.

Apple

breakdown of Apple's revenue streams and profit

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Apple’s biggest revenue driver is consumer electronics sales, particularly from the iPhone which accounts for nearly half of overall revenue. iPhones are particularly popular in the U.S., where they make up around 50% of smartphone sales across the country.

Besides devices, services like Apple Music, Apple Pay, and Apple TV+ also generate revenue for the company. But in Q2 2022, Apple’s services branch accounted for only 24% of the company’s overall revenue.

Microsoft

breakdown of Microsoft's revenue streams and profit

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Microsoft has a fairly even split between its various revenue sources, but similarly to Amazon its biggest revenue driver is its cloud services platform, Azure.

After AWS, Azure is the second largest cloud server in the world, capturing 21% of the global cloud infrastructure market.

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Animation: The Most Popular Websites by Web Traffic (1993-2022)

This video shows the evolution of the internet, highlighting the most popular websites from 1993 until 2022.

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ranking websites by page views 1993-2022

The Most Popular Websites Since 1993

Over the last three decades, the internet has grown at a mind-bending pace.

In 1993, there were fewer than 200 websites available on the World Wide Web. Fast forward to 2022, and that figure has grown to 2 billion.

This animated graphic by James Eagle provides a historical look at the evolution of the internet, showing the most popular websites over the years from 1993 to 2022.

The 90s to Early 2000s: Dial-Up Internet

It was possible to go on the proto-internet as early as the 1970s, but the more user-centric and widely accessible version we think of today didn’t really materialize until the early 1990s using dial-up modems.

Dial-up gave users access to the web through a modem that was connected to an active telephone line. There were several different portals in the 1990s for internet use, such as Prodigy and CompuServe, but AOL quickly became the most popular.

AOL held its top spot as the most visited website for nearly a decade. By June 2000, the online portal was getting over 400 million monthly visits. For context, there were about 413 million internet users around the world at that time.

RankWebsiteMonthly Visits (May 2000)
1AOL400,891,812
2Yahoo387,573,587
3MSN354,239,803
4eBay116,101,785
5Lycos116,064,930

But when broadband internet hit the market and made dial-up obsolete, AOL lost its footing, and a new website took the top spot—Yahoo.

The Mid 2000s: Yahoo vs. Google

Founded in 1994, Yahoo started off as a web directory that was originally called “Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web.”

When the company started to pick up steam, its name changed to Yahoo, which became a backronym that stands for “Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle.”

Yahoo grew fast and by the early 2000s, it became the most popular website on the internet. It held its top spot for several years—by April 2004, Yahoo was receiving 5.6 billion monthly visits.

RankWebsiteMonthly Visits (April 2004)
1Yahoo5,658,032,268
2MSN1,838,700,057
3Google1,318,276,780
4AOL905,009,947
5eBay805,474,705

But Google was close on its heels. Founded in 1998, Google started out as a simpler and more efficient search engine, and the website quickly gained traction.

Funny enough, Google was actually Yahoo’s default search engine in the early 2000s until Yahoo dropped Google so it could use its own search engine technology in 2004.

For the next few years, Google and Yahoo competed fiercely, and both names took turns at the top of the most popular websites list. Then, in the 2010s, Yahoo’s trajectory started to head south after a series of missed opportunities and unsuccessful moves.

This cemented Google’s place at the top, and the website is still the most popular website as of January 2022.

The Late 2000s, Early 2010s: Social Media Enters the Chat

While Google has held its spot at the top for nearly two decades, it’s worth highlighting the emergence of social media platforms like YouTube and Facebook.

YouTube and Facebook certainly weren’t the first social media platforms to gain traction. MySpace had a successful run back in 2007—at one point, it was the third most popular website on the World Wide Web.

RankWebsiteMonthly Visits (Jan 2007)
1Google7,349,521,929
2Yahoo5,169,762,311
3MySpace1,276,515,128
4MSN1,259,467,102
5eBay957,928,554

But YouTube and Facebook marked a new era for social media platforms, partly because of their ​​impeccable timing. Both platforms entered the scene around the same time that smartphone innovations were turning the mobile phone industry on its head. The iPhone’s design, and the introduction of the App store in 2008, made it easier than ever to access the internet via your mobile device.

As of January 2022, YouTube and Facebook are still the second and third most visited websites on the internet.

The 2020s: Google is Now Synonymous With the Internet

Google is the leading search engine by far, making up about 90% of all web, mobile, and in-app searches.

What will the most popular websites be in a few years? Will Google continue to hold the top spot? There are no signs of the internet giant slowing down anytime soon, but if history has taught us anything, it’s that things change. And no one should get too comfortable at the top.

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