China’s super app WeChat allows more direct links from competitors under pressure from Beijing

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  • Users will be able to open external links during one-to-one chats, and can open external shopping links shared in group chats
  • WeChat, which has 1.25 billion monthly active users, said it would develop new functions so users can manage the links they receive

WeChat, the super app run by Chinese internet giant Tencent Holdings, said on Monday it will allow more links and content from third-parties to open directly within user chats, in response to Beijing’s push for interoperability among China’s Big Tech companies and after a recent ban on app upgrades by the company.

In one-to-one chats, external links can be opened directly, WeChat said.

Users will also be able to open shopping links shared from external platforms in WeChat’s group chats “on the basis of ensuring security and user experience”, Tencent said in an announcement on its official account.

It did not name any external platforms, but WeChat, known as Weixin on the mainland, has been accused by Alibaba Group Holding, operator of online shopping platforms Taobao and Tmall, and ByteDance, the owner of Douyin and TikTok, of blocking their links. Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.

“We will continue to work with major internet platforms to push interoperability under the guidance of the regulatory authorities,” Tencent said in the statement.

The move came just days after China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) suspended Tencent from upgrading its apps, signalling the regulator’s displeasure with the social media giant. It is not known whether the latest action by the company is linked with the administrative punishment it received.

However, China has been pushing the country’s technology platforms to remove the walls between them as part of Beijing’s wider efforts to encourage competition and curb monopolistic behaviour.

Tencent, which has long been a target of criticism for blocking links to rivals, started to allow such links, including those for Taobao and short video app Douyin, to be shared in one-to-one chats in mid-September.

The MIIT said in September that it has been giving guidance to internet companies as they conduct self-rectification measures to unblock external website links, and will continue to push the companies to eventually solve the problem through different steps and phases.

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