Tencent: the biggest web company you’ve never heard of

Those efforts have already begun to bear fruit: in the last three months of 2011 the firm's revenue from video advertising increased by 70 per cent on the previous quarter. It's an encouraging start, but there's plenty of work to be done yet. Rsearch firm Analysys International reckons Tencent accounts for 4.1 per cent of China's online advertising market, behind more established firms such as Google and Baidu.

Facebook learned a lot from Tencent with regards to business models.

Should these moves worry the big players? Heng thinks so. "Tencent's expertise lies in social networking and gaming, and online gaming has been effective in driving traffic and new users," she says. And that, Heng reckons, is the root of the firm's expansion. "Once Tencent has established itself in global markets, it will be able to draw attention to its online media and online advertising."

Risk and reward

The firm's current plans aren't its first when it comes to making global moves. Back in 2010, Tencent ploughed $300 million into Russian investment firm Digital Sky Technologies, which has invested in Facebook and social gaming giant Zynga. That wasn't Tencent's first interaction with Facebook either: CTO Jeff Xiong told TechCrunch that "Facebook learned a lot from Tencent with regards to business models" and confirmed that Facebook extensively studied Tencent's micropayment model as far back as 2006.

In 2007, meanwhile, Tencent launched an international version of its QQ Games portal, but that almost closed down last year - only a response from players, which Tencent described as a "pleasant surprise", persuaded the firm to keep its floundering offshoot open.

Mike Jennings


Mike Jennings has worked as a technology journalist for more than a decade and has been fascinated by computers since childhood, when he spent far too long building terrible websites. He loves desktop PCs, components, laptops and anything to do with the latest hardware.

Mike worked as a staff writer at PC Pro magazine in London for seven years, and during that time wrote for a variety of other tech titles, including Custom PC, Micro Mart and Computer Shopper. Since 2013, he’s been a freelance tech writer, and writes regularly for titles like Wired, TechRadar, Stuff, TechSpot, IT Pro, TrustedReviews and TechAdvisor. He still loves tech and covers everything from the latest business hardware and software to high-end gaming gear, and you’ll find him on plenty of sites writing reviews, features and guides on a vast range of topics.

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