Tencent QQ (often referred to just QQ)
is a free instant messaging computer program in mainland China,
founded in Shenzhen, China, on 11 November 1998, by Ma Huateng.
In February 1999, Tencent Inc. developed an instant messaging software "OICQ" (later renamed "QQ") which inherited existing functions from ICQ with additional features of software skins, people's images, and motions.
QQ was first released as a "Network Paging" real time communications service.
QQ currently allows free registration for membership. In 2002, Tencent stopped its free membership registration, requiring all new members to pay a fee, but in 2003, this decision was reversed due to pressure from other instant messaging services such as Windows Live Messenger and Sina UC.
Tencent has taken advantage of the popularity of the QQ brand, and has set up many Q-Gen stores selling QQ branded merchandise such as bags, watches, clothing as well as toy penguins.
Besides the chat feature, QQ had also developed other features including games, virtual pets, ringtone downloads, blogs, etc.
In 2009, QQ began to expand its services internationally, with its IMQQ portal,
working with partners throughout Asia and the USA.
In Vietnam, Tencent has struck a deal with VinaGame
to bring the QQ Casual Gaming portal as well as the QQ Messenger as an addition to the already thriving Vietnamese gaming communities.
In the United States, Tencent has partnered with AOL to bring QQ Games as a contender in the US social gaming market.
In 2009, Tencent launched Xiaoyou,
its first social network website, trying to compete with Renren and Kaixin001, the Chinese social networks, mainly for students. In mid-2010, Tencent changed direction and replaced Xiaoyou with Pengyou.com.