Users of a leading Chinese betting site found their efforts to gamble on World Cup games thwarted on Monday amid a spat between the country's two largest internet groups over who was to blame for the outage of an online payments engine.
With deciding games in the tournament's first stage about to be played, tempers frayed when visitors to Tencent's mobile betting site QQ Lottery were told they would not be accepting payments from Alipay, the online payments arm of Tencent's arch rival, ecommerce company Alibaba.
Tencent insisted it was a technical problem caused by delays in account transfers on the Alipay side, "which negatively affects the user experience" on its QQ betting site. However, customers were sceptical. One user of Weibo, China's version of Twitter, responded with an emoticon of a smiley face picking its nose and asked: "Is this really the reason?"
Many observers assumed Tencent had blocked Alipay to boost usage of its competing online payments engine Tenpay, a charge Tencent denies. Tenpay has struggled to gain market share amid Alipay's dominance of online payment – estimated by Beijing internet company iResearch at 50 per cent against Tenpay's 20 per cent.
The lively exchange escalated to a war of words in which Alipay derided Tencent's explanation for the outage as "bullshit" on its official Weibo feed. Tencent representative Zhang Jun was more measured, responding with a message not to "overinterpret" the situation.