Snapchat, a messaging service, is using QR codes (二维码) to connect people. Facebook is working on adding the ability to hail rides (打车) and make payments. Twitter, meanwhile, has been experimenting with live-streaming video.
All of these developments have something in common: The technology was first popularized in China.
WeChat and Alipay, two Chinese apps, have long used QR codes to let people pay for purchases and transfer money. Both let users hail a taxi or order a pizza without switching to another app. The video-streaming service YY.com has for years made online stars of Chinese millennials posing, chatting or singing in front of video cameras at home.
Silicon Valley has long been the world's tech capital: It gave birth to social networking and iPhones, and spread those tech products across the globe. However, China's tech industry—particularly its mobile businesses—has in some ways pulled ahead of the United States. Some Western tech companies are turning to Chinese firms for ideas.
The shift suggests that China could have a greater say in the global tech industry's direction. Industry leaders point to a number of areas where China jumped first. Before Amazon discussed using drones (无人机) to deliver products, China's S.F. Express (顺丰快递) was experimenting with the idea. WeChat offered speedier in-app news articles long before Facebook, developed a walkie-talkie (对讲机) function before WhatsApp, and made major use of QR codes well before Snapchat.
"Quite frankly, the rap (苛责) that China copies the U.S. has been there for years, but in mobile, it's the opposite: The U.S. often copies China," said Ben Thompson, the founder of a tech research firm. "For Facebook, for example, the best way to understand their road map is to look at WeChat."
Chinese companies usually approach the Internet in a different way. Some business models may not translate well from one market to the other, but the two can still borrow a lot from each other, said Carmen Chang, an investor who spends time in both China and the United States.
"China was able to develop a lot of innovative business models," Chang continued. "Whether or not we admit it here in Silicon Valley, it has had an influence on us and our thinking."