Tencent-backed WeChat banned three social networking rivals within one day on its platform—including Bytedance’s just-launched video-based messaging app Duoshan—taking China’s social media war up another notch in 2019.
Other apps affected by the WeChat ban included: Kuairu Technology-owned, Smartisan-backed Liaotianbao, which is an updated version of the once-popular messaging service Bullet Messenger; and Matong, an anonymous social media app developed by Shenzhen-based Ringo.AI. All three apps were rolled out on Tuesday.
WeChat blocked the download address of Bytedance’s Duoshan for “hazardous content complaints from users.” The blocking of Duoshan came as the app was being announced by its product manager during its launch event in Beijing.
A spokesperson for WeChat declined to comment when contacted by TechNode on Wednesday morning.
Duoshan allows users to share disappearing videos with their contacts and encourage interactions among close friends. Bytedance is seen as a challenger to Tencent’s social media business by offering a fresher take on WeChat’s social patterns. Some WeChat users also have complained about pressures that comes with chasing affirmation from online acquaintances.
Liaotianbao updates Bullet Messenger, the once touted “WeChat killer.” The app hit more than 4 million active users in the nine days following its August 2018 launch, becoming the most downloaded social app in the Chinese Apple App Store during the same month. Its downfall culminated with it being temporarily removed from the App Store and accusations of lax security.
Matong, which launched in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, is backed by Ringo.AI. The newly-formed AI startup was founded by Wang Xin, who was considered China’s video-streaming king before he was sentenced to three and a half years in prison in 2013. He has since been released.
China’s social media world has long been dominated by Tencent, with over 1 billion monthly active users mounting on WeChat. In May 2018, Zhang Yiming, Bytedance’s founder and CEO, accused WeChat of making excuses to block Douyin videos from being shared on the platform.
In May, WeChat announced a series of management rules targeting third-party services, claiming for the protection of “users’ privacy and content compliance.” The rules aroused great controversy among Chinese media outlets and netizens, and led to accusations by Bytedance CEO Zhang Yiming that Tencent was looking for excuses to block competing apps. Tencent backed down on the rule, though a number of apps remained banned.
At Liaotianbao’s launch event in Beijing, Luo Yonghao, founder of Chinese smartphone maker and backer of Kuairu Technology, confirmed the app had been blocked by WeChat.
“We found [that our products] had already been blocked on WeChat just before the event was open, and we are uncomfortable with that,” Luo said, “We wanted to say hello to WeChat, but obviously they don’t want that.”