Allen Zhang, lead of WeChat (Weixin in Chinese) and vice president of Tencent, gives some ideas in an interview on what were widely speculated by the public and media about the cannot-be-hotter mobile app, such as why there hasn’t been a version for iPad. Of course, monetization is an unavoidable topic. But he didn’t say social games or micro-payments service which Pony Ma, CEO of Tencent, told the WSJ yesterday.

Monetizing official accounts

“Why would I build the official accounts platform? It has monetization potential. It’s possible that, when it works, not only does it can be monetized, but also doesn’t annoy users. What’s even better is (users) would like to pay for services. That’s good approach to monetization.”

The platform performs well on its own. A handful of WeChat official accounts have started featuring display ads within articles sent to their readers daily. Brands who are trying to do social marketing with the platform also see it a good medium for interacting with consumers. Some merchants claimed that they did see traffic from WeChat converted into transactions. It is reported that Sina Weibo is testing a similar platform enabling media Weibo accounts to send out rich-media posts, which is seen as Sina’s feeling pressured by WeChat’s official accounts program.

But Zhang doesn’t mention how to but only says they “don’t want monetization to conflict with user experience. It’s necessary that monetization must hurt user experience. There’s a possibility and that’s our goal”.

“Shake” to access everything

WeChat 4.5, the latest version launched last month, added shake-to-search-for-a-song feature. It functions like music recognition services such as Shazam but takes advantage of the shake gesture. Prior to this version, it enabled shaking to e-meet users who also shake their phones or to transfer web pages from PCs.

Alen Zhang sees “shake” fit well in mobile Internet as it doesn’t require users to type in anything. He mentions a couple of scenarios for shaking to interact: 1) the official WeChat account of a TV program would show up on your phone screen with a shake when you are watching the program; 2) The detailed information of an ad could be sent to a phone after a shake.

Why no iPad app?

“…for iPad is more used in WiFi environments. So, it may happen that users who sign up to WeChat with iPads may not receive messages immediately after the other side sends some out. The experience must be terrible. That would lose the benefit of ‘always-online’. However it doesn’t mean we’d not roll out a version for iPad. If we’d do one, it must be that we’d have thought through, other than adding one for one more device.”

What’s WeChat?

“How you use it decides what exactly it is to you”, he says.

Tracey Xiang

Tracey Xiang is Beijing, China-based tech writer. Reach her at

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