WeChat, China’s instant messaging app (developed by Tencent), released an update note on Monday (29 November) night, announcing that the platform, “will begin to update the external link management measures from now on, and external links will be directly opened in the one-to-one chat scene” as a response to the Chinese government’s push for interoperability among tech firms in the country.
External links shared from Alibaba’s e-commerce platform Taobao, and the Chinese version of TikTok (Douyin), are now accessible from WeChat without a “risk warning” page. Such practice would be based on “ensuring security and user experience”, as Tencent stated in an official announcement. With this move forced upon them, it also offers the potential of gaining new users via the synergy between competing apps.
Some Chinese netizens have also run personal tests and reported that external links still do not open in WeChat on their devices. The team at WeChat responded to this issue, stating that functional coverage “will take a certain amount of time”, and will be fully covered over the coming two days.
Meanwhile, there do not seem to be any updates from Taobao’s side regarding a further open-up to WeChat, with users still having to copy the sharable link in Taobao and paste it to WeChat. Users can then make orders to Taobao without leaving WeChat, although WeChat Pay is still excluded as a method of payment for such purchases, showing the resistance Taobao has to this new cross-platform operation.
This raises a natural concern to the integration for both sides, as there is a chance of losing user bases to one another, with rivalry and app success more critical than ever for continual growth.
Alibaba has not responded to WeChat’s update as of this writing. However, the move by WeChat has been a significant step forward in achieving interoperability as the two companies had been blocking each other for eight years.
This move took place just a few days after Tencent was ordered to halt updates to existing apps or roll out new apps, by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), in order to review its compliance with privacy rules. Although it is unknown if this administrative punishment has played a part in the latest action, it is a cause of optimism for users of relevant services as they can enjoy easier access and the possibility to move across media platforms.
With WeChat’s open access to its 1.25 billion monthly active users, these efforts, hopefully, could encourage other parties to follow suit to create a more open digital environment while leveraging each other’s user bases.
It is clear that brands will need to move swiftly over the coming months to be in line with government regulations, with how smoothly and successfully they can do so whilst maintaining unique experiences to their users being the key factors in continuing to dominate the tech landscape.