"Isn't this the Q coin?" On Facebook's Libra launch day, there were netizens who ridiculed it.
But in addition to the ridicule of eating melons, almost no one will really equate libra with Q coins. After all, compared to the well-known Q coins of Chinese netizens, libra has to be seen in a variety of ways: “Stable coins for standard currency”, “high cooperation threshold”, “no border currency”, “inclusive financial foundation” "To be born for the world", this seems to be completely analogous to the Q coins commonly used by the people to buy QQ show.
What can be forgotten by everyone is that, once upon a time, Q coins have also been used as settlement tools by netizens, circulating in the virtual world, and even faintly becoming a virtual "general equivalent". As the publisher of Q coins, Tencent has almost become the "central bank" of the virtual world.
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At that time, the public opinion storms and regulatory disputes that the Q coins set up in China were no less than the current Libra storm.
"There is nothing new under the sun", the same as "virtual currency", Q coins have been born, developed to glory, and now return to the source, this magnificent journey may bring a hint of Libra's road to change the world.
Back in April 2000, this month, the Nasdaq index, which has been mad for nearly two years, suddenly plummeted without warning, and in just a few months, the market evaporates 8.3 trillion US dollars.
At that time, although Tencent was not listed, it was also enveloped by the bubble. In the worst of times, there were only 10,000 RMB on the books. Fortunately, Tencent received life-saving money from IDG and Yingke in the moment before the stock market crash, and thrilled to win the breath.
This is the darkest and coldest moment for Internet entrepreneurs. The bubble bursts and sorrows. Surviving Internet companies are looking for new directions and new ways of profiting.
The opportunity was left to the survivors.
"Mobile Monternet" has become the first lifeline of the Chinese Internet. The SMS value-added service launched by China Mobile, Tencent became the biggest beneficiary with “Mobile QQ”, not only achieved the first single-month breakeven, but also achieved a net profit of more than 10 million in less than one year.
"Online games" is a half-life straw. The reason why it was only "half root" at the time was because a fatal problem on the Internet was not resolved – payment.
For example, China's earliest chess and casual online game "Lianzhong Games" has registered more than 20 million users and 3 million monthly users. Although the number of users has grown by leaps and bounds, there is no way to pay for gamers.
According to "Tencent Biography", one of the biggest differences between China and the US Internet industry is the lack of a financial credit system. "For a long time, how to establish your own payment system has plagued all operators."
The problem of online payment also caused Tencent to be overwhelmed. Because Tencent's series of experiments on QQ charges all rushed to the streets: advertising, membership, corporate service response; QQ number registration charges made Tencent into the first public opinion storm.
Ma Huateng attributed the failure to the lack of payment methods: "There were few Chinese young consumers who had credit cards at the time. They had to go to the post office to send money. Few netizens were willing to go to the post office for 10 yuan a month. ”
This is the biggest flaw of Tencent in the past: holding 100 million users, but QQ is like "starving a ghost," the money and money earned are all on QQ, but still can not find a direct profit.
Turnaround, sprouted in a game company called "Ninetowns".
Zhu Jun, founder of Jiucheng, proposed a charging model "game currency." They issued a joint card with Shanghai Telecom, and the 100 yuan Internet card contains 15 yuan of "Nine City Game Coins".
Zhu Jun also invented the "Nine City Points", players can use the "game currency" in the joint card to buy "points", then you can play a paid game, or bet in other games.
"Nine City Game Coins" and "Nine City Points", this should be the exclusive virtual currency issued by the earliest companies in China.
With exclusive virtual currency and part of the cost of Internet access, in July 2001, Jiucheng's monthly income reached 2 million yuan, and 3 million registered users among the paid users reached 100,000.
The “virtual currency” model began to replicate online. In 2002, Tencent released its own proprietary virtual currency “Q coins”.
In fact, there is still a history about the "Q coin name."
According to the "Homemaster's House" report, in order to give Tencent's own payment code a "Geely" name, Tencent employees thought for a few nights, hesitating in the Q yuan, Q coins, Q Bao and other names.
The final decision on the "Q coin" is because it feels "users are easy to understand."
The Q-coin rule is very simple: one yuan can buy one Q coin, and the paying user can use the card number of the equivalent denomination card, the password “recharge”, and the recharged Q coin and QQ account.
"With your own virtual currency, maybe the situation will be better." Ma Huateng believes.
With the support of Q coins, Tencent's situation is really only "better."
In the beginning, the Q coin was “the tasteless tasteless ribs” – because there was no good use scene.
Take one of Tencent’s paid trials, “QQ Member Business”, as an example. Looking at the paid service at the time, it’s actually a chicken rib, such as online favorites, buddy list preservation, and “nickname”.
As a result, QQ members only have a few hundred users who are willing to join in a month. The monthly income is only 20,000 to 30,000, and there are only 3,000 members in half a year. And using Q coins to pay, there are very few.
The paid scene is not open and the Q currency is also refrigerated. It was not until the emergence of a revolutionary toll product that the Q coin showed its charm for the first time.
On January 24, 2003, the QQ show went live. Now we seem to be the avatar that is commonplace and will be the first cornerstone of the future Tencent Empire.
At that time, for QQ show products, Tencent also had a special project plan – Avatar.
"Avatar" is actually a development function of the Korean sayclub.com community website. Users can change avatars according to their own preferences, such as hairstyles, expressions, costumes and scenes. These virtual goods need to be purchased for a fee.
In accordance with this line of thinking, Tencent has made new payment attempts. In order to promote the QQ show, Tencent first gave each QQ member a Q coin worth 10 yuan, making them the seed users of the QQ show.
As a result, the popularity of the QQ show was unexpected. After half a year on the QQ show, 5 million people bought the service, which cost an average of 5 yuan. In 2003, the QQ show generated revenue, which reached 1/8 of the SMS mobile QQ at that time.
These virtual items, which cost between 5 and 1 yuan, have allowed Tencent to find new Internet value-added services outside of Monternet, and it is a business that is dominated by Tencent and has huge imagination.
"The network is also a world, a world of dreams that we can achieve in reality," said Tencent's Avatar project proposal. If the QQ show offers "dream world", then Q coins link Tencent's dream world.
After QQ members and QQ show, Tencent launched QQ system, QQ game, Red Diamond and other diamond systems to form an independent, closed-loop QQ world.
Q coins are the only payment method in the world.
Seeing here, we can compare Libra’s vision of launching Libra. Through the descriptions of “Give for the World”, “The Foundation of Inclusive Finance” and “Currency without Borders”, we can find the similarities between the two. point:
Q coins and Libra, one for the real world to access the virtual world, one for the virtual world linked to the real world;
Both parties are born out of the financial system, the former in order to solve the possibility of online payment, the latter in order to solve the difficulties of cross-border settlement.
But simple tools are not enough. Tools without a sufficient number of users are not enough to survive and develop.
To really land, you need a specific public acceptance of the use of the scene, this Q coins rely on the QQ show to create a breakthrough, then where is Libra's scene?
Libra's official expectation is that the partner institution will give priority to its own scenario, and the highest priority scenario is cross-border payment. But considering many realities such as politics, interests, costs, etc., it may be more quick and convenient to find a breakthrough scene inside the Facebook.
If there is a scene, is Libra the next step?
Let us return to the journey of Q coins and find the answer –
After 80s and 90s, there should be such a memory – call the phone to recharge the Q coins, and buy the Q coins in the Internet cafes and newsstands.
In fact, after launching a series of Q-currency consumption scenarios online, in 2003, Tencent began to build a complete Q-coin sales system. In general, online and offline, three channels:
1 Cooperate with the audio station of Telecom to sign the Q-coin agreement. Users can purchase Q coins by dialing 16,885,885. The income is Tencent and the voice station. This model was opened in Hangzhou and quickly copied to more than 300 voice stations nationwide.
2 Established a channel for Q coin sales with Internet cafes. Tencent expanded more than 10,000 Internet cafes in a short period of time.
3 own online payment system.
"For Tencent, the establishment of a system of its own is a strategic success, which is also a symbolic time for the community-based websites of China and the United States to part ways in the profit model." Tencent Biography said this.
With consumer scenarios and sales channels, Tencent’s financial report has become more and more eye-catching:
At the end of 2003, after the launch of Red Diamond, Tencent’s monthly virtual props revenue exceeded 10 million.
In June 2004, Tencent was officially listed on the main board of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
In 2005, Tencent's total revenue was 1.426 billion yuan, and Internet value-added services (mainly Q coins) accounted for 786.7 million yuan.
In 2006, in the first quarter alone, Tencent's Internet value-added services revenue reached RMB 436.5 million, and the number of instant messaging QQ registered has reached 531.5 million.
After this financial report was issued, Tencent had the name of "empire" in the media – the central empire in the virtual world.
If Tencent is an empire, then Q coins are the only currency of the empire. With the expansion of Tencent's business, QQ users have exploded, and the radiation range of Q coins has become larger and larger.
In fact, virtual currency already had a complete industrial chain. According to the "Report of the Webmaster's House", online game cards, sales channels, and agent operators have developed rapidly. "At one time, various online game recharge cards are covered with large and small software stores, Internet cafes, and Newsstand" .
At that time, there were no more than 10 kinds of virtual currency in the market, such as Q coins, bubble coins, U coins, Baidu coins, cool coins, World of Warcraft coins, Paradise coins, and grand coupons.
However, only Tencent’s “Q coins” have escaped from their own systems and have been widely accepted by netizens. They have even been questioned as “general equivalents” and have been subject to regulatory attention.
During the development period of Tencent Expressway from 2003 to 2006, Q coins began to jump out of Tencent's ecology.
Q coins are first distributed in the virtual world of the Internet:
The salary of the small and medium-sized forum to the moderator is the Q coin;
"Legend" gamers use Q coins to buy and sell props;
The media "Mr. Wang, the netizen of Chengdu" earns nearly 4,000 yuan a month by selling only Q coins.
Then, the professional Q currency trading venue appeared:
The special "golden" studio and dialogue platform appeared, and Q coins became the intermediary of each game props and forum points exchange;
According to the "Jinghua Times" 2006 survey, on Taobao, more than 8,000 stores selling Q coins, all over the provinces and cities in China; in the 2006 Super Girl Finals, fans buy virtual currency Q coins to vote, Taobao one day The transaction amount of Q coins is more than 500,000.
Finally, the Q currency transaction spread to the offline:
At that time, some netizens have successfully used Q coins for computer accessories, 1000Q coins? Switched to a hard disk box, which is much more cost-effective than bitcoin for pizza;
After the professional gold studio gets the Q coins, the players who sell the Q coins to the local Internet cafes are converted into RMB.
By 2005, the "Q currency transaction" has become a complete industrialization system. From RMB to Q coins to RMB, Q coins are quietly circulating underground, becoming the “equivalent” of the online virtual world.
In fact, Q coin is not a perfect "transaction intermediary", it has many defects, but all of them are overcome by netizens:
First of all, Tencent Q coins and QQ account binding, the official can not transfer, then how to "transfer" the two sides of the transaction?
The trader first converts the Q currency into the "game currency" in the QQ company game, then "loses" the game currency to another account, and then converts the game currency into Q currency.
According to the "Jinghua Times" report, "this is already an open secret", Q coins complete the perfect transfer, the first transfer problem is solved.
Secondly, Tencent did not open a two-way payment, which means that in the Tencent system, the Q currency can no longer be exchanged for RMB.
But Tencent does not, other intermediary platforms can be – a special third-party platform, the main business is to convert Q coins into RMB.
More interesting, netizens give Tencent Q coins pricing – the official one is too expensive, about 6 hair is more appropriate. When demand is high, the price rises by 8 cents, and when it is too much, it falls to 4 cents.
"In fact, most of the Q coins are now bought and sold in order to enjoy the services provided by QQ." Q coins have been separated from the Tencent system, and Q coins have gradually become the "equivalent" of the network.
All this is beyond the expectation of Tencent.
In fact, to a certain extent, Q coins are circulating underneath, and Tencent is a victim.
Because the supply of Q coins, mostly from "QQ hackers", they use professional tools to steal QQ accounts to get Q coins and then sell them at low prices.
Song Wei, then assistant general manager of the public relations department, said that the source of Q coins sold online is basically obtained through hacking. Tencent firmly resists and combats such behavior.
In addition, Q coins are not the perfect currency, it still has a trust problem.
If it is an important game prop, a large amount of transactions, netizens will still choose to trade in the same city; virtual online transactions in different places are still at risk.
In fact, there was already a “trusted website for trust”, and both parties gave the equipment and Q coins to the website and then forwarded by the agency. However, in this way, one must charge a certain fee, and the second is to guarantee the credit of the website itself.
But for some small online products, Q coins can meet the needs of both parties.
Another problem is Tencent’s attitude towards “underground trading”. Once it is discovered by Tencent, it will be confiscated with Q coins or a title.
But this still can't stop the enthusiasm of netizens.
"There are many people who use Q coins. Tencent has a good reputation. Everyone can use Q coins for exchange." A Q coin shop owner said.
Zheng Lei, an economics expert at Shenzhen Brain Bank, told the media that according to incomplete statistics, there were more than 200 million Q-currency users at the time. Industry insiders estimate that at that time, the domestic Internet had a virtual currency market of several billion yuan per year, and it grew at a rate of 15% to 20%.
Economists have long pointed out that as long as people trust the issuer of virtual currency, this currency can behave like a real currency and become a "general equivalent."
“Q coins are just a channel for users to use value-added services. It is a commodity and can only be valuable in the specific environment of Tencent. Without Tencent, it does not have the function of exchange.”
“Q currency is a statistical code, not a currency, and it is not circulated outside of QQ.”
Tencent has repeatedly emphasized these views.
However, after several years of development, Q coins completely jumped out of the Tencent system, and to some extent became the "general equivalent" of the virtual world. This result Tencent itself may not have expected.
It can be seen that the road to the top of the Q coin depends on the rapid expansion of the distribution channel, the colorful use scenarios, the equivalent change causes qualitative changes, and in a larger scope, establishes the credit consensus of the audience.
The development of Libra will also be similar. In addition to finding suitable scenarios, it is also necessary to quickly expand the scenes and channels, reach enough ordinary people and rely on the scene to lock the customer to bring a general consensus. This is the key to achieving Libra's vision. step.
This step has been difficult, but it is not the other side of success. After that, like the Q coin, Libra must also be in front of the "Sword of Damocles" hanging on his head, that is – supervision.
"If you want to wear a crown, you must bear the weight." Since it has become the de facto "general equivalent", naturally it cannot escape the concern of supervision and public opinion, and Q coins are no exception.
In 2005 and 2006, there have been sporadic voices discussing the use of Q-currency on the Internet, but the real explosion of public opinion is an article.
In the 7th issue of the "Legal System and News" in 2006, an article "The Legal Torture of the Four Freaks of Virtual Society" was published. The author is Yang Tao, a visiting professor at the School of Law of Jiangxi Science and Technology Normal University. He discussed four "weirds" on the Internet: virtual property, virtual currency, virtual person, and online marriage.
Q coins are the focus of the second part of this article on "virtual currency":
Yang Tao believes that Q coins have already exceeded the scope of services provided by Tencent, and are gradually becoming a trading tool on the Internet.
"In the virtual world, there are enough people to recognize the value of a certain kind of currency, and the currency is likely to become a substitute for material exchange. Now there are tens of millions of QQ users, which already has the basis of this identity."
"If virtual currency acts as a currency, and this virtual currency is arbitrarily issued by merchants, its total amount is not restricted, which will inevitably have an impact on China's financial order."
"Q coins will impact China's financial order and impact the RMB system." This view immediately caused an uproar. Q coins are described as a "hazard" from a company's products that threaten the central bank's threat to financial stability.
At that time, almost all mainstream media, portals, and even foreign media were discussing whether Q coins were virtual currency and whether they already had currency attributes. Netease also launched a survey vote, and eventually more than half of the voting netizens believe that "Q coins impact the renminbi."
On the occasion of the fire cooking, Yang Tao published a second article to the central bank's "Proposal to strengthen supervision of Q coins."
In this article, Yang Tao admits that Q coins currently only have certain attributes of “currency”, and they cannot be compared with the RMB at all. There is still a long way to go to become a so-called “currency”.
Although the non-return function is a major obstacle to the “currency” function of Q coins, Yang Tao said that it cannot be said that Q coins cannot form general equivalence attributes, and will not have the “money” value scale and payment method. , the means of circulation and the function of value storage means.
“Because, the 'money' can be used to trade as long as it is recognized in the market, and it may become a general equivalent without the need for a return function.”
Yang Tao insisted on his own point of view: "If Q coins continue to follow the current development trend, it is possible to form a 'legal currency status that impacts the renminbi'."
Public opinion was once again ignited, and around the topic of "Q coins are not money", well-known scholars and experts began to debate.
One party, supporting Yang Tao’s remarks, believes that Q coins already have currency attributes.
According to Internet critics, the currency has five functions: value scale, payment method, circulation means, storage means and world currency. Q coins have part of the monetary function in terms of value scale, payment means, circulation means and storage means. The general equivalent property is strengthening, and the Q coin has indeed begun to appear as a "sprout" of the new currency form.
One party believes that Q coins are only commodities, and the impact on the RMB system is purely alarmist.
Lawyer Yu Guofu insists that Q coins are not electronic money. “The RMB in the market will definitely not be printed because of how many people buy Q coins. The issuance of online currency is based on people’s purchases. The financial system has nothing to do with it."
A more realistic point is that Tencent is unlikely to open a two-way exchange of Q coins and RMB, otherwise it will face huge risks: First, its own capital chain is broken; Second, it encounters a vicious run. "Any commercial company will not take this risk, only to become a "virtual central bank"." Internet laboratory Liang Chunxiao analysis.
One party analyzes from a theoretical point of view and thinks that Q coins are not currencies; one party is talking about trends, and “Q coins” have been recognized by netizens in a short period of time. If it continues to develop, will it become the only currency in the online world?
The two sides have been arguing endlessly, and the central bank has also expressed its position: it has begun to pay attention to the topic of virtual currency, and is seriously studying it; electronic money including virtual currency will become another regulatory focus after electronic payment.
"Speaking that Q coins have already impacted the renminbi, my personal judgment has not yet reached such a serious degree." Li Chao, spokesman of the People's Bank of China, said, "If there is a crime of money laundering through virtual currency channels, this is what the People's Bank needs. Highly concerned issues and one aspect of the fight"
At the height of the discussion, some experts even called for the establishment of China's “Online Bretton Woods System” : linking virtual currency to the renminbi, and renminbi linked to metal currency to ensure that virtual currency issuance is within the company's ability to control and improve virtual currency recycling. Open the official recycling virtual currency channel.
If this step is taken out at the time, Q coins will become the de facto "stabilized currency."
Tencent in the whirlpool still adheres to the consistent attitude: never thought about issuing "currency", the company does not think that Q coins will become virtual currency; Q coins only serve within Tencent system, and are worthless outside the system.
However, Tencent has not announced how many Q coins it has issued, and said that it does not object to the private exchange of Q coins.
In the end, regulation came in February 2007: 14 Chinese ministries and central banks jointly launched a special crackdown on virtual currency trading.
The notice said that it will "strengthen the regulation and management of virtual currency in online games and prevent virtual currency from impacting the real economy and financial order"; "the government will ban the sale of virtual currency and require enterprises to strictly distinguish between virtual transactions and e-commerce. transaction".
A few months later, on the teleconference after Tencent announced its first quarter earnings report, some analysts asked: "What is the direct impact on the Q-currency regulatory policy?"
“There is no impact.” Liu Chiping, president of Tencent, replied, “The rumors that Q coins are virtual currencies at the end of last year are unreasonable.”
However, in actual operation, Tencent adjusted the Q coin design: it lowered the number of Q coins transferred between users, closed the channel to convert game points into Q coins, and reduced the circulation of Q coins in the market.
After that, the story of Q coins may not satisfy the crypto-currency believers: the rise of third-party payments such as Alipay, the supervision is concentrated in third-party payments; the rise of mobile payments, China enters the cashless society.
Buying and spending online is no longer a problem, and you no longer need Q coins.
Q coins are slowly returning to their original appearance, only in the Tencent ecosystem.
The Q coin once again returned to the regulatory level, in 2013, as the Internet virtual currency and bitcoin juxtaposed.
At the 7th China Banker Summit Forum in 2013, he was then the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress and the Vice Chairman of the Financial and Economic Committee. Wu Xiaoling, President of the China-Europe Lujiazui International Finance Research Institute, delivered a keynote speech, “Innovation of Commercial Banks in the Internet Age”, which has a meaning. Deep words:
The central bank has to strictly supervise banks because it can create money. Now there are currencies on the Internet, such as Q coins, and now Bitcoin, and the Internet is also creating money.
Anyone who can create money, if it can have a greater impact on the public, should be supervised by the regulatory authorities.
The world has entered the era of credit currency. The world is mainly trading in the currency of a sovereign country. The Fed’s every move can affect the financial markets that affect the world. The importance of money is self-evident, so it is impossible to turn a blind eye to money. However, the amount of currency that appears on the virtual network is now limited. So far, the regulatory authorities have not directly supervised it, but sooner or later this issue will be put on the agenda.
Time flies, in the eyes of later digital currency followers, Q coins have been "stunned everyone", using Q coins to pay for the end of the project, has been used as a joke.
But who would have thought about it, this paragraph used to be so real, and even almost become your daily routine?
And then I will look at Ma Huateng's comments on Libra. "Technology is very mature, it depends on whether regulation is allowed." It is already a different flavor.
“Just there was no blockchain technology at the time.” Some blockchain practitioners expressed their feelings to 31QU.
Compared with the Q coins, Libra has to be much larger in terms of vision, strength and technology. Correspondingly, the difficulties will multiply.
Whether it is a realistic landing scene or a possibility of rapid expansion, these are already difficult points for digital currency.
Also different from the rise of Q coins, the field of electronic payment is almost blank. Libra is now facing the barriers of mature products in the field of legal electronic payment.
Although Libra's strategy is to replace sovereign currencies with weaker countries, the weak electronic payment infrastructure of third world countries will also become a problem for Libra.
What's more, after all this has been resolved, Libra will also face the pressure of supervision, "currency without borders", but the organization and members of "Boundary Without Borders" can be national.
However, what is certain is that a revolution led by digital currency is coming. At the G20 summit, attention to "digital currency, encrypted assets" has become a hot topic.
From the "Comet Program" to Musk's "Global Starlink", from Q coins to Libra, technology has been changing, but human dreams have remained the same.
When Ma Yun commented on QQ and Q coins, he said, "QQ is a bit scary. His attack is always quiet."
Quietly, the revolution in digital currency has already begun.
1 "Tencent Biography" Wu Xiaobo
2 Legal torture of the four monsters in the virtual society
3 Recommendations for strengthening supervision of Q coins, etc.
4 Q coins sparked a big discussion, the central bank plans to supervise virtual currency next year
5 netizens underground trading trading Q coins triggered the attention of the central bank
6 Q coins stolen to who to shout, can buy physical supervision but become blank
7 Tripartite debate on Q currency private transactions
8 Tencent Q coins will really disrupt the national financial order?
9 Liu Chiping: The speculation on Q coins has no effect on Tencent.
10 Wu Xiaoling, member of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, said Bitcoin should be included in supervision
Text: 31QU Murphy