Tencent Holdings Ltd. is planning a major update to its ubiquitous WeChat messaging app to stave off up-and-comer ByteDance Inc. and counter the startup’s growing dominance of short-form video.
WeChat, used by more than a billion people for everything from messaging to booking meals and movies, will soon add a feature to let users publish video clips and photos to their followers via a feed — not unlike Twitter’s.
That’s a departure from the current format that focuses on articles (with accompanying visuals). While it’s unclear what the final product will look like, Tencent wants users to be able to share video and content directly with one another. It began Monday inviting select individuals and organizations that run public accounts to test the feature.
A Tencent representative said the service will launch soon.
The foray into short-video publishing marks Tencent’s latest endeavor to recover lost ground from ByteDance, which set the world ablaze with social media phenom TikTok and its Chinese twin Douyin. The latter, which now serves 400 million daily active users in China, has hurt Tencent’s bottom line by luring teens and advertisers away from WeChat.
ByteDance, the world’s most valuable startup, is increasingly challenging Tencent’s lead in Chinese social media thanks to its groundbreaking Toutiao news service and TikTok-Douyin.
The two are sparring in a number of fields revolving around online content. ByteDance has quietly built up a 1,000-strong gaming division to spearhead a serious foray into hardcore or non-casual games, tackling Tencent on its home turf.
WeChat’s new feature was first hinted at by founder Allen Zhang this month. In a prerecorded video, the reclusive leader confessed he made a mistake by focusing too much on text articles in its current public feed, rather than short-form visual content.