QQ is the number one chinese instant messaging
) program. Most versions are in Chinese, but there is also an English version. It's available at im.qq.com. I'm not sure how many users it has, but according to their web site they broke 6 million simultaneous users in march 2004. In the small city I live in about 90% of my students use it.
In a lot of ways QQ is more advanced than other IM clients.
My favorite feature is sharing sounds - you can set it up so that the sound playing on one computer is sent to another. So whatever I'm playing in winamp or realplayer is automatically encoded and sent to the other person. It's a really easy way to be a DJ for your friends. I can't imagine it being that easy to share music over aim or MSN.
It's got lots of nice icons. It's got something called "QQ show" where you can pick and customize an avatar, buying facial expressions, clothes, backgrounds etc with QQ money, which you get by winning games on QQ game.
There is also integrated video and sound. This is good since most net cafes in China have computers with cameras and microphones.
If you have messaging on your cell phone, you can also hook that up.
It's linked up to many other services run by the parent company, Tencent Traveler, such as QQ love, QQ game, QQ music, QQ news etc. QQ game is a lot like yahoo games but feel a lot more advanced. QQ music has free mp3s of thousands of chinese artists. I was surprised to find cocteau twins there too... QQ love is a really popular matchmaking service.
Unlike AIM, which hasn't changed in years, new versions of QQ come out every few months.
Standard version are all Chinese, but you can chat in English too. It uses 9 digit numbers to identify users, and you can choose a username which doesn't have to be unique. Like a lot of programs made in China, passwords are much longer, usually 9 digits.