WeChat just made a subtle but symbolic change this Monday. The app’s iconic launch screen, which features a photo of the Earth taken by NASA from the outer space, was replaced by one taken by FY-4 for a short period between September 25 and 28. This is the first-ever change that the company has made to its launch screen in its six-year history.

The image swap was intended to celebrate the official use of FY-4, China’s second generation of meteorological satellites. The current FY-4A is the first of the series and successfully launched in December last year.

While both images have a boy silhouette standing in front of the Earth, the angles from which the pictures were taken are different. The original NASA photo, usually dubbed Blue Marble, shows Africa as the center of the sphere, while the FY-4’s photo puts China in the middle.

WeChat explained in an official statement: “The African continent is the origin of human civilization. We used its picture as the launch screen in the hope to imply originality: Only with the emergence of human being does communication exist and have meaning. The FY-4A’s photo is meant along the same vein, to evoke the history of the development of Chinese civilization since humanity’s origins by showcasing China’s natural scenery to our hundreds of millions of users.”

In addition to its implied political meaning, the change also indicates a closer tie-up between Tencent and meteorological departments, which is good news for WeChat users who enjoy the convenience brought by meteorological science and technologies. Tencent is not only providing more accurate weather forecast and satellite images to its users, but also access to meteorological science knowledge through official accounts, extreme weather warnings, and meteorological video streaming, according to the firm.

Emma Lee (Li Xin) was TechNode's e-commerce and new retail reporter until June 2022, when she moved to Sixth Tone to cover technology and consumption. Get in touch with her via lixin@sixthtone.com or Twitter.

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.