TensorFlow is getting its own official WeChat account, Google announced at a developers’ conference today in Shanghai, our sister paper reported. TensorFlow is an open source library for dataflow programming and machine learning, such as neural networks. This move is the latest sign of Google feeling for ways back into China.

TensorFlow official WeChat group
The TensorFlow official WeChat account is live, but functions have yet to be added. They invite users to suggest what they would like. (Image credit: TechNode)

Why is a WeChat account significant enough to report on? It is a highly visible sign that Google is trying to get back into China but in a different way. No longer trying to offer a search engine here, it is instead aiming to have a presence in China’s fast-growing AI industry. TensorFlow makes developing AI applications easier for developers. Google has been attempting to use this open source tool attract Chinese developers into its fold.

Google has also been hiring for an AI lab that is expected to open soon in Beijing. It recently launched an official TensorFlow website for China and said at the WeChat account unveiling:

“We will provide Chinese developers with the latest TensorFlow news, practical technical resources, information about future developments and any offline activities, so that Chinese developers can more easily use TensorFlow to create artificial intelligence applications.”

Google said it will host more TensorFlow events in 2018, both online and in the real world.

The WeChat channel is not yet fully functional in terms of content, but it is already registered and WeChat users can already follow it. A search of public accounts related to TensorFlow shows there is already a strong demand for TensorFlow news, discussion and support.

TensorFlow WeChat groups
When you type “TensorFlow” into WeChat’s public accounts search tool. Plenty of unofficial accounts already in place. (Image credit: TechNode)

TensorFlow is already in use by well-known companies in China (in Chinese). Our sister site reports that JD.com uses it for managing advertisements, in optical character recognition (OCR), customer service, smart speakers and in an overall deep learning platform. Google has a five-year agreement with China’s Ministry of Education to invest tens of millions of RMB in AI education in Chinese universities and in training teachers.

Frank Hersey is a Beijing-based tech reporter who's been coming to China since 2001. He tries to go beyond the headlines to explain the context and impact of developments in China's tech sector. Get in...

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