Wildly-popular messaging service WeChat and its Weixin counterpart (which only users in China get) have hit a combined new high of 235.8 million monthly active users, up a staggering 176.8 percent year-on-year.

The latest figures show that WeChat seems well on its way to catch up with its rival WhatsApp, which recently revealed that it has surpassed 300 million monthly active users.

This comes as no surprise given that Chinese Internet giant Tencent, which owns WeChat, has been stepping up its marketing activities to push the messaging service worldwide — and it acknowledged in its Q2 2013 earnings that its net profit for the second quarter was down sequentially due to a “significant” increase in promotional activities for the chat app in international markets.

Right now, WeChat is still lagging behind WhatsApp in terms of international dominance. Onavo Insights published an infographic recently that shows how the chat app landscape looks like worldwide among iPhone users in June 2013: WhatsApp was the dominant one in 11 out of the 16 countries featured, while WeChat was only dominant in mainland China.

However, amid aggressive marketing efforts to promote the service globally, last month WeChat announced that it chalked up 70 million overseas users, adding about 20 million users in less than two months. At the same time, it launched a TV commercial starring football star Lionel Messi, which was planned to be aired in 15 countries.

Earlier this month, a long-awaited update to WeChat and Weixin was rolled out that introduced services such as online games, stickers and payment services.

Notably, Tencent recorded RMB 4.1 billion ($665.6 million) in revenue from e-commerce transactions in the first half of 2013, up 155.4 percent year-on-year. In comparison, its e-commerce revenue for the whole of 2012 stood at RMB 4.4 billion ($723.9 million).

Given that Tencent has now integrated payment services into Weixin, e-commerce seems to be the new focus this year — as the Internet giant seeks to diversify its businesses and tap on the extremely lucrative e-commerce market in China, which saw a whopping RMB1.3 trillion ($190 billion) worth of transactions in 2012.

Headline image via WeChat