Midjourney China Emerges in the World's Largest Internet Market, then Vanishes"
  • May 16, 2023
  • Thomas Waner
  • 0

Midjourney, the generative art sensation, made waves with its debut, capturing the attention of global enthusiasts. Now, it seems that the ten-month-old company is making its entWeChat ry into the Chinese market, known as the Middle Kingdom and renowned for its vast internet user base.

An article published on Tencent-owned social platform WeChat by an account called “Midjourney China” announced the acceptance of beta test applications. However, the account mysteriously deleted the article shortly after its release.

The sudden disappearance of the post remains a mystery, especially considering the overwhelming response it received in China. According to the original post, applications were only open for a limited time on Mondays and Fridays, and the available spots quickly filled up on the launch day.

The WeChat account belongs to Pengyuhui, a Nanjing-based company founded in October. Little public information is available about the firm, and TechCrunch has reached out to Midjourney for clarification and comment.

Launching an internet application in China comes with its challenges due to the country’s stringent regulatory environment. It is common for foreign startups to partner with local entities to navigate the operational complexities.

While several applications claim to be the Chinese version of Midjourney, this one appears to be the most serious contender. The imitators can be easily distinguished as they lack community building efforts and openly request user payments. “Midjourney China” stated in its post that it introduces new iterations every 1-2 days and provides 24/7 support to address user inquiries.

The strategy employed by “Midjourney China” is well thought out. By utilizing QQ, a messaging platform similar to Discord, the company taps into China’s generative AI craze and leverages the platform’s community-building capabilities. QQ has already proven successful in fostering large communities, such as the open-source neural network project RWKV.

There is no official partnership between Tencent and “Midjourney China” regarding the use of QQ, according to sources. Instead, “Midjourney China” operates as a third-party client and initiates its independent user acquisition efforts.

Chinese netizens who are well-versed in technology have been familiar with Midjourney. However, accessing the text-to-image generator has required circumvention methods and virtual private networks to bypass the Great Firewall, which restricts access to certain social networks. Additionally, users without credit cards have had to rely on agents to facilitate subscriptions and top-ups, as credit cards are not widely used in China due to the prevalence of mobile payment solutions.

With the absence of ChatGPT and Stable Diffusion in China, numerous local alternatives have emerged. Should “Midjourney China” prove legitimate, it will be interesting to observe its competition with Baidu’s art generator ERNIE-ViLG and the startup Tiamat for user engagement.

“Midjourney China” closely resembles the original art generator, allowing users to send prompts on QQ to generate images, which can then be further modified with additional instructions. The payment structure aligns with the Discord-based version, offering 25 free images before requiring payment based on a specified pricing scheme.

The timing of “Midjourney China’s” emergence coincides with Western internet giants retreating from the Chinese market. LinkedIn recently announced the closure of InCareer, an app developed to comply with Chinese regulations but struggled to gain traction. Similarly, Midjourney faces the challenge of meeting compliance requirements while competing against well-established domestic players.

Any foreign company seeking to enter the Chinese market must navigate the ever-evolving regulatory landscape. Real-name verification is a prerequisite for users of generative

AI, as it is for all internet services operating in China. By running on QQ, “Midjourney China” seemingly meets this requirement, as all QQ user accounts are linked to users’ real identities.

Furthermore, China has recently introduced specific rules regarding synthetic media usage, placing responsibility on service providers to label fake images that may mislead the public. These providers must maintain records of illegal AI usage and report incidents to the authorities. Undoubtedly, Midjourney, in all its forms, will need to censor politically sensitive keywords in China, a practice it already implements to some extent.

The question remains as to how “Midjourney China” and QQ will share the burden and costs of monitoring user behavior if and when the application gains significant traction in the country.

Thomas Waner

A writer interested in artificial intelligence fields with good experience in programming. He is currently working for us as a writer, manager, and reviewer, with a strong CV.
from India. You can contact him via e-mail: [email protected]


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