Tencent WeChat opens on Rivals links like app walls collapse
(Bloomberg) — Tencent Holdings Ltd. For users of its main social media service WeChat to link to competitors’ content for the first time in years, taking initial steps to comply with Beijing’s call to dismantle walls around platforms run by the country’s internet giants.
From Friday, users who have upgraded to the latest version of the messaging service can access external services such as Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s Taobao online center. or ByteDance Ltd.’s Douyin video app. Excess members. But this only applies to individual messages, not to group chats nor to Facebook-like Moments pages.
While it is unclear whether the social giant has opened dozens of more online services, it is a big step for Tencent, which together with Alibaba and ByteDance controls vast swathes of the Internet in China. In a statement announcing the move on Friday, Tencent said it would also provide ways for its users to report suspicious content, and work on features for sharing links in broader group discussions.
China’s top technology regulator has warned internet companies to stop blocking links with competing services, and considered opening up so-called walled gardens in a broader campaign to curb its growing monopoly on data and protect consumers. The government has accused a few companies of unfairly protecting their domains: Tencent in social media via WeChat, Alibaba in e-commerce with Taobao and Tmall, and most recently, ByteDance in video via TikTok-cousin.
Why China is cracking down on its tech giants: QuickTake
Of the two, Alibaba is seen to benefit the most as it will be able to tap into Tencent’s more than 1 billion users, while Tencent – which heavily protects user experience on its apps – has less incentive to allow people to post shopping links. Alibaba shares rose 2% Friday morning in New York.
The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology last week summoned executives from the country’s largest internet platforms to stress the need to end closed ecosystems that impede the flow of commerce. It is also seen by critics as key to helping Internet companies gain control of user data and control the market.
Historically, China’s largest Internet companies have blocked links from within their services to competitors’ content. However, it was not clear what actions regulators wanted the big tech companies to take, and when. Local media reported that the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology ordered internet companies to start taking action on September 17.
Alibaba and Tencent executives have said they will comply, publicly embracing a more open Chinese Internet. Earlier this year, Alibaba aimed to create a Taobao Deals lite app on WeChat and had already invited merchants to participate, Bloomberg News reported. But Tencent executives said during the company’s latest quarterly earnings call that it prioritizes user experience and any openness should be measured.
ByteDance filed a lawsuit in February against Tencent, alleging that its rival violated antitrust laws by blocking access to content from Douyin on WeChat and QQ, the country’s two largest social networking services, by users. The Shenzhen-based company described the allegations as malicious and baseless.
Read more: Alibaba opens up Deals app in franchise for antitrust campaign
(Updates with posts in the fifth paragraph.)
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