What’s been simmering these days in China’s endlessly quarrelsome and combative internet space, is an open feud between two of the largest tech powerhouses that could develop to the prelude to a bloody clash similar to the 360 versus Tencent great war from few years back, when both companies are forcing their customers to take sides.
And this time, Tencent fills in to make choices for its customer.
On Tuesday night, Douyin, China’s most popular short video app, made a second public outcry by issuing an open letter on WeChat Public Account, a service similar to Facebook Pages built within Tencent’s Wechat, accusing Tencent of taking down Douyin short videos uploaded to Tencent Video, Tencent’s video streaming service.
Douyin’s open letter claims that its videos were removed on grounds of spreading “inappropriate content”, whereas the videos were just normal and legit clips that could be found everywhere else online.
To prove its point, Douyin experimented with new uploads but all in failed attempts, and documented the whole process in detail in the open letter.
Clash of the titans
Earlier this month, ZHANG Yiming, founder and CEO of Bytedance, the company behind hyper-popular Douyin, went head-to-head with Tencent founder and CEO Pony Ma. In one of Zhang’s WeChat moment postings, ZHANG accused WeChat of blocking Douyin users from sharing videos to WeChat moments. He also suggested that Tencent’s revived Weishi app has been stealing clips from Douyin. The two apps are having an uphill battle in China’s short video app sector and Douyin is way ahead of Tencent’s Weishi.
In fact, the two tech giants have fell foul of each other for a while over their scramble for the short video market, which was worth RMB 5.73 billion (approx. USD 896.8 million) in 2017 and is projected to grow to RMB 30 billion (approx. USD 4.7 billion) by 2020, according to a report by market research and consulting company iResearch.
According to local news service Lieyun, Tencent sued Bytedance 300 times in 2017. A local court ruled last year that Bytedance needs to compensate Tencent RMB 270,000 for copyright infringement inflicted by its flagship news aggregator Toutiao.
An endless battle
Weishi isn’t Tencent’s only bet on short video apps.
Kuaishou, another Tencent backed video app is the most popular one in its genre in China with a DAU (daily active users) of 107.7 million in March, according to data service Jiguang. But Douyin is growing at an eye-popping pace. Its DAU reached 45.6 million in March up 28.2% compared with December 2017. During the same period, Kuaishou’s DAU increased 5%.
Apart from Kuaishou, Tencent also revived its Weishi app to contend against Douyin and is reportedly giving out subsidies worth RMB 3 billion (almost $ 478 million) to entice influencers to its platform.
However, until now, it seems that Tencent’s efforts haven’t paid off. Weishi is still far behind its competitors in terms of popularity.
Douyin is not the first app banned by WeChat. Tencent Music’s rivals NetEase Cloud Music and Xiami, as well as Alibaba’s Alipay and Taobao, have all been banned by WeChat in 2015.