Ant Financial’s Alipay has become an all-encompassing app that people in China use for almost everything—from paying bills and buying tickets to choosing insurance and checking out English test scores at university.
It started out in 2004 as an escrow service tied to Alibaba’s e-commerce services. After years of blistering growth, Alipay now has around 700 million users and has become a pillar of China’s increasingly cashless society. Paper notes and metal coins are a rare sight for many Chinese—these days, street beggars are using QR codes to collect handouts.
The now ubiquitous blue-themed Alipay logo is 支, one of the characters of Alipay’s Chinese name, zhī fù bǎo (支付宝), which means payment treasure. It offers 40 major services, divided into six categories, providing more than 100 services in total—which in the Western internet world would be like having more than 100 separate apps crammed into one super-app. Users can find the various services by typing in a search box, and can select up to 11 most-used functions for the app’s front page.