WeChat Channels, the short-video section running inside super app WeChat, has been testing a new livestreaming function for a selected batch of creators in the latest version of WeChat, according to local media outlet Jiemian. The platform has also extended the maximum duration of videos to up to 30 minutes for certain users.
Channels—WeChat’s short-video feature—has continued to revamp itself since its debut in January. By July this year, the platform already reported 200 million users (without specifying if monthly or daily users), a number still small compared to Douyin’s 600 million daily active users (DAU) as of August 2020.
According to a screenshot from Jiemian, the livestreaming feature on Channels offers a simple menu where viewers can only forward, like, and comment on the livestreaming event. Compared to other livestreaming platforms, it does not offer filters, visual effects, virtual gifts, and clickable links. However, creators can set up notifications to inform users about the beginning of a livestreaming session.
Another major update introduced as a beta function is the extension of videos, from one minute to up to 30 minutes. Creators, merchants, and brands can also link their online stores on Channels’ main page to increase exposure, while short-videos on Channels can now be inserted in WeChat public account’s post, or shared in the Moments feed.
While all features are still in beta mode and accessible only to a select group of users, the update reveals part of WeChat’s expectations for Channels, a platform considered by many as Tencent’s last chance to grab a relevant share in the short-video sector dominated by ByteDance and Kuaishou.
The trend of e-commerce livestreaming, pioneered by Alibaba’s Taobao, ByteDance’s Douyin, and Kuaishou—further popularized during the coronavirus pandemic period—has also induced WeChat to integrate Channels with other commerce and marketing features in its ecosystem, including WeChat Pay and WeChat stores.
Western tech giants are also looking at the potential of video content and e-commerce. Facebook’s Instagram is refining its livestreaming function in a bid to make it more shopping-friendly, while multinational retailer Walmart has agreed to buy a multibillion-dollar stake in TikTok to increase its e-commerce push.