Jinri Toutiao parent company ByteDance is reportedly planning to launch a messaging app as the firm sets its sights on WeChat and escalates its rivalry with tech giant Tencent.

The service, dubbed Flipchat, is going to take the form of an independent app, people close to the matter told Chinese media, adding that ByteDance has approached several senior staff members on WeChat’s team. ByteDance declined to comment on the news.

The company acquired the English domain name flipchat.cn on October 22 through a Chengdu-based subsidiary, according to domain name and IP lookup service whois.  The same company also registered a series of domain names such as fl5.co, flipchatapp.com.

Tencent has taken on ByteDance’s short video business with the launch of more than 10 video apps. Flipchat could be ByteDance’s effort to tap the home turf of Tencent in social networking.

ByteDance and Tencent have fallen foul of each other as they fight for the attention of China’s netizens. A public spat between the founders of the two companies—Pony Ma and Zhang Yiming—resulted in accusations of defamation.

ByteDance’s Zhang accused Tencent-owned WeChat of making excuses to block Douyin videos from being shared on the platform. He also accused  Tencent’s short video app Weishi (微视) of plagiarism, adding that it could not stop Douyin’s growth.

ByteDance’s products are not the only ones that have been banned from WeChat. Kuaishou, Baidu-backed video apps including Haokan, and audio streaming platforms all have their complaints about WeChat’s content sharing policies.

China’s social media world is dominated by Tencent, which claims 1.08 billion and 800 million monthly active users for WeChat and QQ respectively. Several Chinese tech powerhouses like Alibaba, NetEase, and Bullet Messanger have failed to compete with the messaging giant.

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.

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