WeChat official accounts backend crashes

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“We are urgently repairing. We will keep you updated on our progress,” the WeChat team announced on Sina Weibo on December 26, 2019. (Image credit: TechNode/Eliza Gkritsi)

UPDATE: At 6.30pm on January 26, 2019, the WeChat team said on Weibo that the bug was fixed, an hour after it was first reported on Chinese social media.

The backend of WeChat official accounts has stopped working on desktop, making it difficult for businesses that use the function to advertise and communicate with their clients. The social media app’s team admitted to the bug in a thread on Sina Weibo this afternoon.

Why it matters: This is the second bug in the last two weeks to appear in one of China’s most used social media apps.

Details: Tencent’s WeChat team said it is repairing the bug and will keep updating customers. It is unclear how many accounts are affected.

  • One blogger joked (in Chinese) that people who write on official accounts were happy that the backend crashed because it let them go home early.

Snafu in Tencent’s WeChat translation tool for Canadian flag emoji

Context: WeChat is China’s most used social media app, which makes it an essential part of any company’s advertising toolbox. Official accounts are akin to pages on Facebook and allow groups and business to amass followers and communicate with them, sending promotions or building brand identity through articles.

  • WeChat counted 1.133 billion monthly active users in June 2019. This equals 80% of China’s total population in 2018, according to World Bank data.
  • But Tencent’s app has been facing competition in the advertising market from other apps, most notably Bytedance’s Douyin, and growth in advertising revenues for WeChathave been slowing. In the second quarter of 2019, it reached its lowest point in a year, 16%, compared to a peak of 47% in the third quarter of 2018.
  • At the same time, WeChat’s pivot to a ‘super app’ is bearing fruits. In 2017, the app created mini-programs, a functionality that allows companies to build apps that work within the WeChat ecosystem. Between December 2018 and January 2019, time spent on mini-programs grew 23.3% to 64 minutes per month per users.
  • Last week, users noted that WeChat was translating flags with incoherent messages. The Canadian flag was translated as “I’m in prison” and the Afghan flag as “in the middle of nowhere.”