A version of WeChat has been acquired by the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) in London to be preserved in perpetuity. This is the first time a social messaging app has been entered into a museum collection. While it may seem an unusual artifact, the app does meet the same criteria used for any item under consideration.

We visited the V&A and spoke to the curators who worked on the acquisition about why WeChat and how they managed it. The idea to add the app came from V&A staff working on the V&A’s gallery within China’s first design museum—the Sea World Culture and Arts Center in Shekou, Shenzhen— seeing first hand the impact WeChat had on users’ daily lives.

Two and a half years later, in summer 2017, after working with Tencen and museum decision-makers, the release form that completed WeChat’s entry into the archives was finally signed. Two and a half years is a long time in the history of WeChat. Think back to 2015 and 2016 (it was a 2016 version that would be frozen and given to the museum) and many of WeChat’s pioneering features such as voice messaging, stickers, apps-within-an-app had still to be copied by other social apps–WeChat was way ahead of the rest.

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Frank Hersey

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...