Chinese tech unicorn ByteDance is internally testing a new social app as well as three other new products and services, Chinese media Tech Planet first reported on Thursday. The three other offerings are a search app, a gaming community platform, and a near-distance automated delivery service.

Why it matters: Called Paiduidao in Chinese, meaning “party island”, the social app marks a new attempt from ByteDance to build its own rival to Tencent’s ubiquitous WeChat. Frustrated with competitors’ link blocking behavior, the short video giant has been trying to develop its own communication platform since 2019 but failed several times. 

Details: ByteDance is testing Paiduidao internally at a small scale, and users can only try it with an invitation, a company spokesperson confirmed with TechNode on Thursday. The company is also testing several other products: a search app called Wukong Sousuo (meaning “Wukong search”; Wukong is the name of beloved mythical figure the Monkey King); a gaming community and ranking service called Lingxuan (meaning “soul choices”); and a robotic delivery service for short-distance orders. 

  • It’s currently unclear what ByteDance’s new social app has to offer. Tech Planet tested the offering and called it “a metaverse social app,” saying it allows users to create customized avatars and enjoy immersive experiences such as having virtual musical parties and chatting with other users. A ByteDance spokesperson contested Tech Planet’s definition, saying the app “has nothing to do with the metaverse.” 
  • The search app will allow users to search videos and novels, among other things. ByteDance has robust offerings in the two categories. 
  • The gaming service aims to build a gaming community where users can download games, share social posts about games, and see the latest releases’ rankings, among other features. 
  • ByteDance is also testing a robotic delivery service that completes orders within a short distance. Tech Planet said the service will open shortly after China’s upcoming Lunar New Year holiday (Jan. 31 to Feb. 6). 

Context: ByteDance has previously launched social apps Duoshan and Feiliao in an attempt to build its own messaging platform to counteract Tencent blocking users from directly sharing ByteDance’s short video content over the WeChat messaging app. Both ByteDance apps have failed to gather momentum. 

  • ByteDance launched Doushan, a Snapchat-like video chat app, in January 2019. The app didn’t find lasting success. In May that year, the company launched a chat app called Feiliao (Flipchat in the global market). The app and the team behind it was disbanded in December.
  • In June, ByteDance accused Tencent of blocking links to its short-form video apps Douyin, Huoshan, and Xigua, for three years. Since late last year, Chinese authorities have asked tech majors to stop blocking links from competitors and to open up the walls around each’s ecosystems.

Qin is the managing editor at TechNode. Previously, she was a reporter at Inkstone, a China-focused news site owned by the South China Morning Post. Before that, she worked in the United States for five...