Tencent is testing a new feature on its do-everything platform WeChat, allowing content creators to post short-videos and photos in a news feed-like section, according to a post on WeChat’s official account, which was later removed by the company.
WeChat’s new feature provides a space called “Channels”, where creators can upload videos up to one minute long, in addition to photos, text, and links to WeChat’s Public Account articles. Viewers can access the new section from the app’s “Discovery” tab, where a recommendation system will also suggest new videos to users, according to the published post.
Currently, creators who want to participate in the beta test need to send an email to the WeChat team, providing identification information and a “proof of influence”. This includes data such as the number of followers and views on recent posts published on social media platforms, including WeChat and others.
The company said that the feature is now only active in Guangzhou, Chengdu, Xi’an, and Shenyang, and will be opened to more regions and users gradually.
The move comes after WeChat’s founder Allen Zhang announced a string of new upcoming features and a plan to allow the platform’s users to generate short-form content, during the WeChat Open Class Pro in Shenzhen January 9.
Although Wechat has 1.15 billion monthly active users (DAUs) and its Public Account Platform has been one of the most important channels for Chinese to get information, Zhang pointed out two weaknesses of the platform’s content creator tool. The limitation to only be able to edit content from a PC, and the current text-based form of WeChat Public Account, that narrows the possibility to include other formats.
The new short-video feature could enrich Wechat’s content ecosystem, while it also marks the company’s reaction amid the uphill rivalry from ByteDance’s short-video app Douyin (known as TikTok overseas), and Kuaishou, which is also backed by Tencent.
According to a semi-annual report from QuestMobile, 7.2 out of 10 mobile Internet users are using short-video products and the amount of time spent on short-video applications has increased by 8.6% year-on-year, totaling more than 22 hours per month. In comparison, the average time spent on WeChat decreased by 8.4% to 32.4 hours per month between December 2018 and June 2019, stats from third-party research firm QuestMobile showed.
As Douyin’s DAUs reached 400 million as of January 2019, nearly doubling its users in just a year, and Kuaishou’s hit 300 million DAUs, Tencent’s similar offering Weishi has less than 50 million daily users.
TikTok’s rapid growth overseas has also put pressure on social media giant Facebook. In November, Facebook-owned Instagram launched a TikTok-alike application called “Reels” in Brazil, a video-music remix tool that allows Instagramers to make 15-second video clips with music to share them as stories. It also released Lasso in 2018, but the effort failed to have a major impact.
It is unknown whether WeChat can upend the status quo with the new Channels feature.