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Popular Chinese Super App WeChat Ends “War on External Links”

If you’ve been to China before, you probably know that it is almost impossible to live everyday life without using the WeChat app. With over 1.2 billion users, most of whom are in China, the WhatsApp-like platform functions as a peer-to-peer communication network, news aggregator, payment processor, service media sharing and much more.

Since 2013, tech conglomerate Tencent, owner of WeChat, and corporate giant Alibaba have been at odds after WeChat blocked direct access to Alibaba’s e-commerce platform, Taobao, through the app. .

Today, after nearly a decade, a November 29 blog post of Tencent explains that the company will begin to allow opening external links in the app.

The decision follows a September 17 declaration by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, which highlighted the changes in the regulation of external links on the platform.

Previously, to share Taobao’s product links on WeChat, users had to copy-paste a weird block of text from the e-commerce site. This process was aimed at avoiding detection by WeChat. Screenshot via WeChat

Before the announcement, Tencent allowed users to share external links in private one-on-one chats after updating to the latest version of the app. However, users who clicked on those links were first taken to a warning page.

The latest changes will also allow direct access to website links shared in group chats, and the company has removed the warning prompt.

With the restrictions lifted, it is now possible for businesses to encourage people to share their links for tempting offers and special discounts on products and services on WeChat.

The policy changes come as part of a broader government effort to prevent Chinese companies from monopolizing their respective industries, much like the US antitrust law. The news sparked discussion about the possibility of other large companies following suit, mainly because compatibility between major enterprise services is lacking in China.

wechat and douyin

Now users can share Douyin links with their friends on WeChat. Image via Depositphotos

In addition to the long-standing blocking of Taobao links, WeChat has also hampered access to other services provided by their competitors, such as online retailer Pinduoduo and the Chinese version of TikTok, Douyin.

Opinions are divided on the subject, with some celebrating that China’s big tech companies are cooperating, while others fear they will be inundated with unsolicited links.

“I don’t want to receive all spam,” lamented one Weibo user.

WeChat said it will fully implement this new rule by December 1, and the company plans to give users more freedom to manage external link settings in the future.

Cover image via Depositphotos