A few months ago, articles and public accounts on WeChat became searchable on Tencent-backed Sogou Search. Now the Sogou-WeChat Search is about to launch version 2.0 with added article recommendations, trending topics and keyword-based subscription, amongst other new offerings.
Unlike the current version of the Sogou-WeChat Search, which shows nothing before you type in any search queries, version 2.0 has a homepage that displays curated articles and more that are automatically listed on the left side.
On the screen’s right side are the most popular queries which will return relevant articles, and trending topics which users can subscribe to.
The new features bear a family resemblance to those on Baidu News. The major difference between the two is that Baidu’s content is sourced from Chinese news sites across the web, while Sogou’s comes from the WeChat platform, where WeChat public account owners publish text, images and other formats of content through the WeChat publishing system.
Although the WeChat publishing system has a poor user experience (based on my own experience), Chinese news organizations or content providers are much encouraged, even compelled, to republish their existing content for their WeChat audiences. The huge user base WeChat has is one major motive; others driving forces include (1) WeChat’s publishing system offers data analytics, and (2) WeChat makes sharing webpages directly onto Moments (the in-app sharing platform) inconvenient.
The new edition of the Sogou-WeChat search has another development to encourage content providers: articles can now also be shared to your QQ IM contacts or groups, or to the microblogging service Weibo.
It’s obvious that WeChat wants to be more than a communication tool: it aims to be a platform for content and beyond. Users can now scan QR codes shown in the Sogou-WeChat search results to follow the WeChat public accounts directly. It’s possible that you’ll be able to scan a QR code to make purchases with WeChat Payment on a Sogou-WeChat search result page. But to me it always feels that WeChat is building a walled garden. At least it’s a waste of time for content contributors to re-publish their articles that have existed somewhere else on the web.