The emergence of the decentralized stack

Many of the issues of the internet we encounter today, such as vendor lock-in, platform feudalism, large-scale internet black-outs, hacks or leaks, are in one way or another related to its increasingly centralized structure. On the one hand, governments are trying to reduce these risks through legislative measures and policies, on the other hand, computer scientists are looking into technical means that can help (re-)decentralize parts of the internet with the aim of dissolving central points of failure that are currently vulnerable to malfunction, coercion and corruption. Here we take a closer look at what decentralization means and how it can help resolve some of the current issues of the internet.

Observations

  • On May 9th Chris Hughes, co-founder of Facebook published an opinion piece in which he calls for the break-up of Facebook due to its disproportionate concentration of power. Similarly, democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren has already called for the break-up of big tech and is gaining more support from other candidates like Sen. Kamala Harris and Joe Biden.
  • In the last few years, quite a few projects (e.g. Solid, IPFS, Freenet, Zeronet, Blockstack, SAFE Network) have been developing open-source protocols, conventions and tools which try to realize data ownership, open data, privacy and decentralized applications.
  • Microsoft announced their decentralized identifier (DID) system called Identity Overlay Network (ION), which allows for a decentralized digital identity that users own and control, backed by self-owned identifiers that enable secure, privacy preserving interactions. By running on top of the Bitcoin blockchain and IPFS users do not have to rely on trusted third parties.
  • As written before, Facebook is also looking into the potential of decentralized tech. Mark Zuckerberg has mentioned that a decentralized identity management system could be achievable in the short term, whereas a decentralized alternative of Facebook is further away due to scalability issues. Furthermore, Facebook is presumably working on a crypto stablecoin named ‘Libra’ with the aim of facilitating all transactions on their platform.

Analysis

From a systems theory perspective, decentralized systems have the characteristic property of being emergent in nature. In other words, instead of lower-level components falling under the control of a central actor, decentralized systems rely on lower-level components acting on local information which give rise to complex behavior at a collective level. The internet is just one example of such emergent behavior. In the book ‘The Starfish and the Spider’ by Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom, many parallels are drawn between digital, social and biological decentralized systems. For instance, the Apache tribe versus the Spanish colonizers shows a similar behavior as peer-to-peer file sharing networks prosecuted by the government. Both lack a central point of attack, are extremely flexible and grow more open, decentralized and resilient under external coercion.

From a political perspective, there are generally three reasons why one would choose to decentralize a system, whether digital or physical. The first one is to increase a system’s fault tolerance, i.e. to what extent a system fails accidentally. Since decentralized systems offer more redundancy, they are more tolerant when individual components fail. Secondly, decentralization helps improve attack resistance by making a system more costly to attack as it lacks vulnerable central points of attack. Lastly, decentralized systems make it harder for participants to collude, as they have to mobilize a large amount of autonomous actors in order to compromise the system.

However, in the case of digital systems, simply running an open-source protocol on as many nodes (i.e. connected computers) as possible, does not necessarily guarantee any of these aforementioned goals. After all, the operating nodes themselves could be owned by one corrupt actor or by a group of collaborating corrupt actors, the software could have a bug, the developers of the software could be corrupt and/or the computers running the node could be faulty. As it appears, one should consider the entire context and the different aspects that can be decentralized. Vitalik Buterin, co-founder of Ethereum, discerns three different dimensions of decentralization, namely to what extent a system is politically, logically and architecturally decentralized. The architectural dimension considers how many physical computers the system consists of. Political decentralization refers to how many individuals control the nodes in the system. Lastly, if the system behaves like an amorphous swarm instead of a large virtual computer, it can be considered logically decentralized.

Regarding the centralization of the internet at large, political, architectural and logical centralization can be found at different layers of the stack. Instances of government internet shutdown, ISPs compromising net neutrality and distrust in internet infrastructure (e.g. Huawei ) mainly relate to architectural and political centralization of internet communication infrastructures. However, issues surrounding big tech can largely be traced back to political, architectural and logical centralization at the application level. Even though the core protocols of the internet mostly guarantee decentralized data transmission (e.g. TCP/IP protocols), at the application level we see more centralized structures due to client-server protocols (e.g. hypertext transfer protocol) who grant considerable control to the application owner in terms of setting the application rules, controlling application resources and most importantly, having leverage over user data collection.

Regarding the centralization of the internet at large, political, architectural and logical centralization can be found at different layers of the stack

Joel Monégro refers to these applications as ‘fat applications running on thin protocols as most of the created value is accrued by the application. In contrast, he expects that permissionless blockchains could flip this model to ‘thin applications running on a fat protocol’, since user data is not controlled by the application layer, but is captured in a shared data layer at the protocol level, namely the blockchain itself. Furthermore, in order to compensate for the lack of a rent-seeking business model that we have grown accustomed to in centralized applications, permissionless blockchains have an integrated reward and penalty system. The built-in consensus protocol (e.g. Proof-of-Work or Proof-of-Stake) provides individual contributors with a stake in the network (e.g. through energy consumption, staking funds) which drives actors towards honest behavior, while the built-in token facilitates a reward system which incentivizes actors to contribute to the network. Thus, the value of the token is determined by the demand of the token which is a function of its usefulness. The consensus protocol in permissionless blockchain systems is thereby a form of logical centralization at the protocol level which stimulates political and architectural decentralization with the purpose of increasing trust and security in a network. Therefore blockchains are expected to become an important enabling factor in creating decentralized applications (dApps) and data marketplaces.

However, it is important to realize that the decision for a client-server architecture has not been an arbitrary one, as it allowed the internet to scale much faster and more efficiently. However, now that we are encountering the repercussions of this approach, users are looking for systems that have different trade-offs. As the blockchain trilemma highlights, blockchain systems compared to centralized ledgers, are sacrificing scalability for the purpose of achieving decentralization and security. After all, in order to become independent from central actors, these decentralized systems rely on enormous redundancy, as many of the resources have to be distributed across the network. However, looking at the many different solutions that are emerging, some willingly choose a less decentralized design in order to allow for more scalability (e.g. Bitcoin vs Bitcoin Cash). Some solutions also choose for more centralized control (e.g. government intervention) to mitigate the disadvantages of decentralization. For instance, censorship resistance is usually seen as an advantage of decentralization (e.g. within the context of dictatorial regimes), however it can also be unwanted in situations where harmful information is distributed (e.g. child pornography, social harassment). This shows that decentralization is not a binary quality and an end itself, but a continuum in which some solutions will make different trade-offs, depending on the specific values and functionalities that are being pursued at the application level.

Lastly, the question arises as to why current dominant centralized actors would ever allow this decentralization trend to take place, as it could undermine their current business model. However, as we can already see, society at large is increasingly experiencing the disadvantages of an internet that is too centralized. Consequently, we can already see how big tech companies are pursuing and developing decentralized services to gain an advantage over their competitors (e.g. Microsoft) or they are simply being forced to implement decentralized tech to prevent being disrupted by it (e.g. Facebook).

Implications

  • As we rely more on ‘fat protocols’, the barriers to entry will be lower and will lead to more open innovation since more developers and applications have access to data, instead of a handful of dominant services. This will also have considerable consequences for the development of AI as its development is largely dependent on the large-scale availability of data.
  • Taking the blockchain trilemma into consideration, it is likely that we end up with a few complementary blockchains, each having a different trade-off in terms of scalability, security and decentralization, in order to facilitate the different qualities (secure value storage, high transaction density, government intervention) the broad spectrum of applications will need.
  • In the long term, with the expectation of peer-to-peer wireless connectivity to become cheaper, more capable and widespread, crypto-driven mesh networks could emerge, which could have considerable consequences for ISPs and governments seeking to control the flow of information at the communication infrastructure level.

 

The implementation of 5G is important for the upgrade of Alibaba & Tencent’s services

5G is the next generation of ultra-fast wireless technology, offering faster data rates, reduced latency, energy savings, cost reductions, higher system capacity, and massive device connectivity. It is expected to power industrial applications such as smarty city infrastructure and the industrial internet, but can also impact consumer services. For example, 5G will enable Tencent’s gamers to seamlessly stream PC and console-quality games on their smartphones without sacrificing processing power or battery life. For Alibaba’s short-video platform Youku, a 5G connection would mean that users can send high-resolution 4K video within a few seconds.

In fear of dependency on Western hardware, Alibaba has set up a semiconductor division

Resembling the States’concern, both Ma’s have outspoken their fear of western depencency when it comes to core technologies:

Alibaba’s Ma:

If we do not master the core technologies, we will be building roofs on other people’s walls and planting vegetables in other people’s yards.

Tencent’s Ma:

[China]’s digital economy will be a high-rise built on sand and hard to sustain if we don’t continue to work hard on basic research and key knowledge, not to mention the transformation from old to new forms of drivers or high-quality development.

In reaction, Alibaba’s R&D arm DAMO (Academy for Discovery, Adventure, Momentum, and Outlook) has set up its own semiconductor manufacturing business and unveiled its chip in July 2019. The chip is designed to process AI tasks such as image, video and voice analysis and will be used for tasks such as autonomous driving, smart cities and smart logistics.

 

Listen to this podcast for more information about 5G in China:

The implementation of 5G is important for the upgrade of Alibaba & Tencent’s services

5G is the next generation of ultra-fast wireless technology, offering faster data rates, reduced latency, energy savings, cost reductions, higher system capacity, and massive device connectivity. It is expected to power industrial applications such as smart city infrastructure and the industrial internet, but it can also impact consumer services. For example, 5G will enable Tencent’s gamers to seamlessly stream PC and console-quality games on their smartphones without sacrificing processing power or battery life. For Alibaba’s short-video platform Youku, a 5G connection would mean that users can send high-resolution 4K video within a few seconds.

In fear of dependency on Western hardware, Alibaba has set up a semiconductor division

Similar to the state’s concerns, Tencent’s and Alibaba’s Ma’s have expressed their fear of western dependency when it comes to core technologies.

“If we do not master the core technologies, we will be building roofs on other people’s walls and planting vegetables in other people’s yards.”
– Jack Ma (CEO Alibaba)

“China’s digital economy will be a high-rise built on sand and hard to sustain if we don’t continue to work hard on basic research and key knowledge, not to mention the transformation from old to new forms of drivers or high-quality development.”
– Pony Ma (CEO Tencent)

In reaction, Alibaba’s R&D arm DAMO (Academy for Discovery, Adventure, Momentum, and Outlook) has set up its own semiconductor manufacturing business and unveiled its chip in July 2019. The chip is designed to process AI tasks such as image, video and voice analysis and will be used for tasks such as autonomous driving, smart cities and smart logistics.

Alibaba and Tencent and Censorship

Within their services and products, Tencent and Alibaba help the government by censoring keywords deemed politically sensitive, while in-house censors also delete posts and accounts. Tencent is quite active in censoring, as the company scored a zero out of 100 for WeChat’s lack of freedom of speech protection and lack of end-to-end encryption in a 2016 Amnesty International report on user privacy.

Alibaba and Tencent have high hopes for the cloud

For Tencent and Alibaba, the cloud started as a crucial component of their internal economy. Over the past few years they have branched out, offering their in-house products to businesses.
Today, Alibaba dominates cloud computing in China with a 43% market share. Under Jack Ma, Alibaba made cloud computing a key priority, and CEO Daniel Zhang plans to make cloud computing technologies an even bigger part of Alibaba’s corporate focus over the next couple of years (for more information see Alibaba’s company profile).
Tencent’s cloud business is the second largest in China, with an 11% market share, according to industry researcher IDC. The company entered the ‘cloud-game’ relatively late, and recently announced to spur its push in cloud computing by investing billions of dollars. This move can be seen as part of its overall strategy to shift focus from its consumer-faced business to the industrial internet. Its cloud-computing business should cater to industries such as retail, mobility, healthcare, and education.

Alibaba and Tencent are members of the National AI Team

Starting in 2017, the Chinese government recruited Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu and iFlyTek to lead key projects in the development of next-generation AI technologies. Alibaba’s cloud computing division was tasked with a smart city project to improve urban life (see Smart Habitat layer for more details), while Tencent has been designated to become a leader in AI-assisted medical diagnosis.
Government endorsement helped Tencent to launch its AI Medical Innovation System, an AI-powered diagnostic medical imaging service. The technology currently has accuracy rates of over 90% for preliminary diagnoses of esophageal cancer, 95% for lung sarcoidosis, and 97% for diabetic retinopathy. Several of Tencent’s AI departments, such as the AI Lab and Tencent Youtu Lab, collaborated to develop the image recognition, using the over 1 billion images on the company’s social network. After the success in healthcare, Tencent is looking to apply its AI knowledge to other applications, such as transportation solutions, security, and protection, as well as voice recognition.

In this episode of the ChinaEconTalk podcast, China expert Jeff Ding of the Future of Humanity Institute discusses the detour Tencent is making from the national champion designation [12:18-13:35]:

Alibaba and Tencent are working on the city of the future…

ET City Brain
The Chinese government designated Alibaba with the task of applying innovative technology to improve urban life. This resonated in Alibaba’s cloud-powered and AI-driven urban project “ET City Brain,” which aims to use AI to optimize city-services in real-time. One of Alibaba’s first pilots focused on reducing traffic congestion in Hangzhou. The video below shows how innovations within several layers of the Stack (think of Cloud Computing, Facial Recognition, and AI) are merged to improve traffic speed up to 11%.

PATH
A joint effort in the smart city area is PATH (Ping An, Alibaba, Tencent, Huawei), a smart city initiative in which these four Chinese tech giants apply their core technologies and an investment of 50M RMB in order to propel China into the global smart cities race (and of course to counter some major problems such as air pollution and congestion).

…but rural areas are also a key priority for Alibaba and Tencent

While smart digital applications are often first rolled out in #tier 1 or 2 cities, both Alibaba and Tencent are currently working on a Rural Strategy. Especially Alibaba sees tier 3, 4 and 5 cities and rural areas as an important new addressable market.
Striking examples are:

•  Tencent-backed WeDoctor and Alibaba’s Good Doctor are making healthcare more accessible for patients in tier 3 and 4 cities.
•  Alibaba invested 716 million USD in Huitongda Network, a platform that offers a variety of business models to help offline stores sell goods via e-commerce offerings, and also help online retailers sell directly to rural residents.
•  Alibaba launched Rural Taobao in 2014, allowing rural residents to buy and sell items online through the company’s Taobao online marketplace. Since its creation, Rural Taobao has expanded steadily, growing to cover 29 provinces, more than 700 counties, and over 30,000 villages.
•  Juhuasuan is Alibaba’s group-buying and flash-sale platform and will be repositioned as an online marketplace for consumers in tier-4, tier-5 cities and rural areas.

“China is experiencing an ongoing consumption upgrade as people look for different ways to enhance their lifestyle. (…) We are now seeing more and more consumers in China’s less-developed regions becoming sophisticated shoppers. They are demanding the same high-quality products as those in top-tier cities.”

– Jiang Fan, President of Tmall and Taobao

Tencent and Alibaba aim for a friction-free consumer interaction through voice

Both Alibaba and Tencent are investing in new consumer interfaces. For example, they are discovering the power of voice as an interface, and more specifically the smart speaker;

Alibaba’s voice assistant is called Tmall Genie. The device is on the market as a regular speaker since 2017 but is also available as a mirror (Tmall Genie Queen) as a device in connected cars (Tmall Genie Auto), and with a built-in monitor (Tmall Genie Family).

The Voice Assistant will become an increasingly important player in our life. I believe that in the coming decade, it will be connected with more devices and be the point of connection for different scenarios in our life, using voice commands to control our homes, vehicles and our personal devices.”

– Miffy CHEN, General Manager, Alibaba AI Labs

Two years after Alibaba, Tencent launched its smart speaker Xiaowei. The launch of Xiaowei is seen as a move of Tencent into diversifying its products and services into more business and industries (such as the B2B and IoT market). Besides, Xiaowei (in English ‘WeChat italking’) will link WeChat users with Tencent’s services available through QQ and WeChat.

Tencent and Alibaba are investing in facial recognition technology

Based on the number of facial recognition patents, Tencent is more active in the field of face recognition than Alibaba. Nevertheless, both companies have already implemented facial recognition in real-life situations.
Tencent is working closely with government in implementing facial recognition. For example, some provinces are issuing electronic identification cards for their citizens using WeChat’s facial recognition technology. The mobile IDs can be used for authentication instead of carrying physical ID cards – mandatory for citizens at all times in China – for travel booking, real name registration at internet cafés, and other security checks. Furthermore, amid tighter scrutiny by the Chinese government, Tencent uses facial recognition to detect minors in relation to concerns that excessive video gaming is damaging public health.

In 2017, Alipay unveiled its facial recognition payment service ‘Smile to Pay.’ The company says that as facial recognition technology takes the place of QR codes, “paying by smiling” will most likely experience explosive growth over the next three years. Statistics from Alibaba during 2018’s shopping festival around singles day also suggest that payments through the face and fingerprint scans now make up 60% of all transactions.

Alibaba’s Smile To Pay system in KFC:

Alibaba and Tencent are developing their own social credit systems

The best-known private system is Sesame Credit, developed by Ant Financial, an affiliate of Alibaba. Sesame Credit is a scoring system that generates individual credit scores for consumers by tapping into Alibaba Group and Ant Financial’s vast online ecosystem and other personal credit information sources. Sesame Scores, which range from 350 to 950 points, are calculated based on five factors – credit history, behavioral preference, fulfillment capability, personal attributes and social network – and are indicators of the users’ creditworthiness. Although the system’s focus is on creditworthiness, a low score can have an impact beyond loans (e.g. being banned from certain hotels) and a government blacklist has also been integrated. At the same time, a high score gives members the possibility to relax in special lounges at China’s train stations or to use bike sharing platforms HelloBike and Ofo deposit free.

Listen to this NPR podcast on the rollout of a Chinese Social Credit System and the role of Alibaba in it:

Tencent is also testing a credit scoring feature for WeChat Pay. Similar to Alibaba’s Sesame Credit, its score is calculated based on WeChat Pay’s pool of data, particularly on personal consumption behaviour. According to Tencent, the purpose is to “provide services that make people’s lives simpler and more convenient.” Users with high scores will be rewarded with perks such as waiving of deposits for rental services and hotels, and paying for services and goods after delivery.

Tencent and Alibaba contirubte to the State’s innovation goals

Although Tencent and Alibaba are originally consumer-focused companies, they are expanding their businesses to the ‘industrial internet’, which involves the broader adoption of advanced consumer and industrial applications that take advantage of next-generation technologies for business purposes.

For instance, Tencent is teaming up with Huawei Technologies, a Chinese multinational technology company that provides telecommunications equipment and sells consumer electronics, to accelerate innovation in core technologies, such as AI and cloud computing.

Meanwhile, last year Alibaba’s CEO Jack Ma called for Chinese traditional manufacturers to fully embrace what he called the “New Manufacturing” model. New Manufacturing involves a transformation of traditional manufacturing industry by integrating technology capabilities in the internet, data, AI, cloud computing and IOT. “Proposing the New Manufacturing model is not because Alibaba plans to enter the manufacturing industry, but rather to help manufacturing companies to innovate and upgrade,” Ma said during the 2018 Cloud Computing Conference in Hangzhou. “During this shift, the current manufacturer-oriented industry will transition to a new era led by customers, where small and medium-sized enterprises can benefit the most.”’

Incubators
Furthermore, both Alibaba and Tencent invest heavily in startups and support emerging companies with incubator programs. Tencent’s WeStart for example operates innovation spaces where it offers start-ups office space to rent and incentives such as tax exemption for three years and favorably-priced access to Tencent’s products and infrastructure. Furthermore, the company assists start-ups to target government-backed support programs. Meanwhile, Alibaba’s Cloud division teamed up with the U.S. workspace operator WeWork to develop an incubation program for 20 foreign startups to enter China, and assist 30 Chinese companies to expand overseas.

Alibaba and Tencent investments in electric vehicles

Alibaba, Tencent and several other Chinese companies have joined efforts to meet China’s ambitions concerning green growth of the automotive industry. They have setup car-sharing services T3, which is powered by renewable energy, called T3.

Other examples of investments in the green future of this industry are Alibaba’s leading role in the 2.2B RMB funding round in Xiaopeng Motors, a Chinese electric car maker that aims to speed up the development of electric vehicles. Alibaba elaborates on this investment: “As a clean energy vehicle start-up, the investment in Xiaopeng Motors fits with Alibaba’s strategic focus in the automotive sector. Under our open-platform approach, we will continue to work with a range of automotive manufacturing partners to benefit Chinese consumers”.

Alipay and Wechat transformed China’s Digital payment landscape

China is a country where Visa and Mastercard are (still) banned, and it has an underdeveloped banking system. As a result, Chinese society remained largely cash-based for a long time. Nevertheless, when China started to manufacture cheap mobile phones, Alibaba and Tencent successfully set-up their own mobile payment solutions known as Alipay (by Alibaba) and WeChat Pay (by Tencent).

Users of these payment solutions link their bank cards to the wallet inside the app. Once linked, they are able to use the wallet as a debit card for direct payments in stores or for online purchases. Furthermore, users can transfer money from their bank account to create a balance on the wallet.

The digital solutions provided by Alibaba and Tencent made it extremely easy for consumers to pay with their mobile phone. In 2018, over 85% of purchases made in China were on mobile payment platforms.
In physical shops, merchants offer consumers the opportunity to pay with WeChat Pay and Alipay mostly with QR codes.

Alibaba and Tencent are SOE-investors

Established in the late nineties, with founders around 50 years old, Alibaba and Tencent are classic examples of companies that stem from the previous generation. Alibaba and Tencent realize though that today’s wave of entrepreneurs is bringing products and services that appeal to Generation Z, and this is the reason they are heavily investing in innovative startups within and beyond the Chinese border. Furthermore, to arm themselves against newcomers, Alibaba and Tencent are combining their strengths to secure their position (see section 1).

Alibaba and Tencent are SOE-investors

As a testing-ground of the mixed-ownership reform, Tencent and Alibaba have both invested in China Unicom, the country’s second-largest wireless telecom operator. These investments are financial, but are also intended to improve the services of state firms. For example, Alibaba and Unicom launched a cloud knowledge venture in order to meet demand from SOEs and governmental institutions in China for innovative technology solutions. Tencent and China Unicom are amongst other things, working on a network security platform.

Tencent’s hometown is a Special Economic Zone

Tencent’s hometown Shenzen was appointed one of the first Chinese area’s to be a SEZ. Tencent – founded in 1998 – witnessed the effects of the nomination: the share of high-tech industries in its total industrial output increased from less than 10% in 1990 to nearly 40% in 1998. Companies could make use of incentives such as access to quality infrastructure, corporate income tax exemptions, exemptions from tariffs on high-tech equipment and special treatment for employees. Other companies that arose in this area were Huawei and ZTE ( global telecommunications equipment, networks and mobile devices company).

Alibaba and Tencent endorse the Communist Party

Tencent released a mobile game titled ‘Clap for Xi Jinping: An Awesome Speech’, in which players have 19 seconds to generate as many claps as possible for Xi.

In 2019, Alibaba reportedly developed the popular Communist Party propaganda app ‘Xuexi Qiangguo’ (in English: study to make China strong). Alibaba staff is said to be responsible for developing and maintaining the app that includes news, videos, livestream and community comments.

Confucian philosophy & Daoism underlie Alibaba’s corporate culture

Without the philosophy of Buddhism, you cannot do well when your business grows to a certain extent. If you do not know the philosophy of Daoism, you have no chance of winning during competitions. If you do not understand Confucian philosophy on the construction of organizational system, you have no chance to be sustainable when your company grows to a certain size.”

– Jack Ma, Founder and CEO Alibaba

Alibaba’s Founder and CEO is strongly influenced by China’s idea of the good life. He always carries a copy of the Tao Te Ching, the foundational text of Taoist philosophy, is a big fan of Tai Chi, and has held meetings with the senior executive team of the company in a temple. Under the eyes of Buddha, the focus would naturally be how to help others, to help ever more people.
Furthermore, Ma actively spreads the Taoist way of thinking among company employees. In the early days, all of them had a Kung Fu nickname (Kung Fu and Taoism are closely linked), Jack Ma’s being “Feng Qingyang”, which refers to an “unpredictable and aggressive” swordsman.
According to Brian Wong, Alibaba’s vice president of global initiatives, an understanding of the principles behind the philosophies do help in having a better grasp of why the Chinese tech market works the way it does. “China is much more about integrating as opposed to taking over or competing in the traditional sense,” Wong explains. “We want to create and integrate.”

Rare earhts are none of Tencent’s and Alibaba’s business

Rare earths are none of Tencent’s and Alibaba’s business. Apart from Alibaba’s semiconductors, both companies do not produce goods, and therefore they are not investing in, or owning, rare earths.

Tencent has dipped its toes in vertical drama

Tencent first dipped its toes into the vertical drama category in 2018, releasing short series like My Boyfriend-ish Sister and My Idiot Boyfriend. These entertainment shows are specifically designed for the mobile screen.

Example of vertical drama by Tencent
Source: V.QQ (2018)