WeChat Tests Short-Video Feature – an Anti-ByteDance Stratagem?
WeChat has apparently responded to the rise of ByteDance with a short-video beta testing. With over 1 billion monthly active users, WeChat is confident that its new feature can lure more users to give them screen time, taking eyeballs back from short video platforms such as Douyin and Kuaishou.
On January 9, Allen Zhang (张小龙), founder of WeChat and senior executive VP of Tencent, made a speech on the platform’s ‘WeChat Open Class PRO 2019.’ He said that WeChat’s short content (short video and pictures) has always been the area their team wants to explore further. Two weeks later, the WeChat short video function has made its debut.
WeChat started to test its short-video feature – called ‘Channels’ – on January 22. The new function allows users to upload a one-minute video – or up to nine photos – in the ‘Channels.’ It is only available so far to selected users in some regions (Guangzhou, Chengdu, Xi’an, and Shenyang).
Currently, users who want to participate in the beta test need to apply to the WeChat team with information and ‘proof of influence.’ The application includes data such as the number of followers and views on the latest posts on social media platforms, including WeChat and other social media platforms.
It’s not WeChat’s first time trying to enter the short video field. In December 2018, WeChat introduced a Snapchat-like video feature to its semi-public Moments feed, but it barely gained traction. The company has also created several standalone mini-video apps to rival ByteDance’s offerings.
However, the team has always been cautious in trying to take on video. This is, to some extent, relevant to Allen Zhang’s preference for User Generated Content (UGC) with Professionally Generated Content (PGC). He hopes that short videos and photos can become a tool for everyone to record and share life. The unlimited content that will then enter into every user’s WeChat should avoid becoming too commercial-driven and trashy.
The short-video test shows some compromise on the part of WeChat. This decision comes as it becomes clear that younger users are increasingly more attracted by PGC or U/GC mixed platforms such as Douyin (China’s TikTok under ByteDance) and Kuaishou.
Eventually, it’s a game about gaining more users and their screen time. The selected users that are posting on the Channel will surely benefit from their early-mover advantages.
Though we are not sure how this short-video function will look like when it opens to the public, the beta testing seems irrevocable amid the trend of videos.