An unintended consequence of a battle between instant messaging applications Tencent and Qihoo 360 has been increased awareness among Chinese internet users regarding averse effects of Tencent‘s industry monopoly and the significance of protection of user privacy and rights.
Although Tecent has a monopoly position in the Chinese Internet business market, its reputation continues to decline amid the controversy. Well-known writer and microblogger Zheng Yuanjie launched a poll on Sina‘s microblog platform about the battle. As of 10am on November 10, around 70% (10,218 votes) of replies support Qihoo 360, with 21% (3,021) of voters having chosen to support neither party.
Why are Chinese internet users supporting Qihoo 360 in this public relations fight?
Privacy and user rights
One description being used to promote the Sina microblog event which condemns Tencent QQ's strategy of forcing users to remove 360 software helps shed some light on public opinion. The event brief reads:
QQ's market monopoly
Qihoo 360 CEO Zhou Hongwei also addresses the user rights issue on his Sina microblog:
以前，是君让臣死，臣不能不死。360不信邪，就要在夹缝中找出一条路来。3Q之争，本质上不是360和腾讯的斗争，而是互联网创新力量和垄断力量的斗 争，360在垄断力量挤压下找到一条生路，也是为其他互联网创业公司找生路。那就是，跟垄断力量斗争，绝对不能伤害用户利益，反而应该以增加用户利益为目 标。
QQ和360事件，应该站在产业和用户利益的高度，给予相应的处理。我个人认为，假如给360打一个板子，那么给腾讯起码要打十个板子。主要理由在 于：360主要是对腾讯利益有损害，而腾讯举措给数亿用户造成了损害。腾讯以用户为弹药，是基于其垄断地位的自信，没有绝对的垄断，没有公司敢于作出这样 的举措。
Timeline of the battle
January 25, 2010: Tecent launches “QQ doctor” in second and third level cities. The antivirus and system protection functions offered by “QQ doctor” resembled those of Qihoo 360.
May 26, 2010: A blogger writes in his blog that the QQ application is scanning users’ hard drives and accessing their private data.
May 31, 2010: QQ upgrades “QQ doctor” to version 4.0 and changes the name of the software to “QQ computer housekeeper”. Its functions increasingly resemble those of ‘360 security guard’.
July 24, 2010: Computer World magazine publishes the front page story “Bastard Tencent” (see the cover image below). The article criticizes Tencent of stealing other people's innovations and murdering startup businesses. It claims that Tencent is the common enemy of Chinese internet users.
September 22, 2010: QQ users find that their “QQ doctor” and “QQ housekeeper” have been automatically upgraded without any notice.
September 27, 2010: 360 launches its privacy protection software. It openly states that QQ has violated users’ privacy by automatically scanning their hard drives.
October 29, 2010: 360 launches “KouKou Bodyguard”. It removes certain QQ applications and protects QQ users’ privacy.
November 1, 2010: A truce in the battle as both parties bring the case to court. Tencent claims that 360's KouKou Bodyguard is an illegal application while 360 contends that QQ has invaded users’ privacy.
November 3, 2010: Tencent issues an official statement demanding that users remove all 360 software and browsers, or face being unable to run QQ on their computers. The action enrages many QQ users and 360 condemns Tencent for violating user rights. 360 launches a web-based QQ client so that QQ users will not have to remove 360. That website is immediately blocked by the Tencent browser. The same day, 360 withdraws its KouKou Bodyguard and urges users to boycott QQ for three days. Tencent proposes a resolution by demanding 360 cease running the privacy protection program and apologize.
While it seems that QQ has the upper hand in the battle, well-known tech blogger William Long points out that as technology continues to advance, QQ may stand to lose its market:
In the future, as our computer applications continue to become more and more efficient, we will be able to utilize all functions in just one browser and artificial intelligence will help us find the people we need to find and block the information we don't. Communication is just one of many Internet functions. When the time arrives, will we even still need QQ clients?