Briefing: WeChat update takes cue from Douyin, removes ‘Drift Bottle’ feature

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What happened: WeChat’s latest update released May 5 on Apple’s App store enables background music for short video posts and comments on other users’ videos. Absent in this update is the social “drift bottle” feature, where users could write voice or text messages and throw them into the “sea” of WeChat users to be viewed by anyone on the app. The company had announced late last year it would remove the feature over concerns that it was being used to circulate pornography. The Android version of the update was available beginning mid-April.

Why it’s important: Over the years, WeChat has experimented with a number of different social features, including a “shake” function that allows users to add people nearby as friends. The quiet elimination of “drift bottle” may be an acknowledgment that users no longer see WeChat as a way to make casual social contact; instead, the app appears to be focusing on creating new ways of connecting with existing friends. The push towards making social video posts more interactive also seems to point in that direction. In addition, it makes the relatively new function more similar to scripted offerings featuring musical accompaniment on hot short-video app Douyin. Douyin, too, may be moving closer to WeChat with a recently announced promotion for more personal vlogging content.