Allen Zhang: WeChat Prepared to Explore the Offline World

The WeChat team held a public class themed as “to be on the day” in Guangzhou on January 15. Allen Zhang, senior vice president of Tencent group and president of WeChat business group, attended and delivered a speech.

In the one-hour speech, Zhang spoke about the future of WeChat, small games, official accounts and likes in WeChat. Tencent Technology summarized the event as below.

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WeChat Bottle Flip: Fighting Against Plug-in

We made WeChat Bottle Flip, a very simple game, in order to let users better understand small games. The game was popular beyond our expectation, and it may have attracted the largest number of users.

Bottle Flip was just an experiment in hopes that more third-party games would be as popular.

Bottle Flip

Plugins appeared as soon as the game was released. I didn’t realize such a small game would also attract plugins. Some of my own friends scored high in the game, but I don’t it was due to their own effort.

This brings influence in two aspects: on the one hand, if your friends cheat in the game, you may think they are less trustworthy. On the other hand, if users score high through plugins, others may be less motivated.

Plugins destroy the rules. Thus, we spent a lot of time fighting against plugins since releasing the game. This kind of confrontation is also endless. Plugins are also advancing every day.

We can judge whether a person uses a plugin from some behaviors. For example, we will see if high-score players have a growth curve. If not, we think they may be using a plugin instead of playing by themselves. We will also invite users scoring more than 3,000 points to our office to play it there. We will prepare special gifts for them.

On WeChat: Respecting Users

WeChat is a tool. We rarely talk about platforms or ecology. So how do you make the best tool? For WeChat, we need to think about whether the choices we make each day are right or wrong, rather than whether they maximize profits.

WeChat has never championed emotions and feelings. What WeChat does is right and what is wrong is a rational choice, not a sentiment. That’s the way it is. If we just start from interests, the product will be jumbled mess with no essence.

All our efforts aim at one goal: respecting users and respecting individuals. We are proud of that, because we do it better than many other products.

WeChat has never read a user’s chat history. When the first WeChat version was released, technically, we were able to upload all chats to the cloud. But Tony Zhang (Tencent co-founder) suggested it was best to not retain user history. For user privacy protection, the WeChat system has never saved a user chat and will never infringe on privacy.

We did our best to respect our users. We do not post any notifications nor advertisements, and WeChat does not allow third parties to do so. At the end of the year, many products switch to using holiday logos: WeChat does not.

Mini Programs: Decentralization

The difference between the Mini Program and the App is that Mini Program is more convenient. Mini Programs and Apps are organized differently, so Mini Program won’t replace Apps – they will enrich them.

WeChat is a platform tool. We’ve been advocating decentralization since early in our development. In a decentralized world, each individual has his own brain and thoughts. Many people say that WeChat itself is a huge App, and may argue WeChat is a center.

I do not think WeChat is a center. WeChat services are provided by different companies, but WeChat does not provide centralized traffic to these companies. We should not affect individual services. Users themselves need to find the services they need, but WeChat doesn’t make recommendations.

For Mini Programs, we also want to have a decentralized platform, and we delegate the power of choice to the users themselves.

Allen Zhang

Official Accounts: iOS Recovers Tipping

We made Apps for official accounts before, but we did not release them, because we felt that did not met expectations. There should have been such Apps long ago. It is a pity. Now we’ve completed another App, and may soon publish it.

As for the tipping function of official accounts, Apple couldn’t understand the function. After coordinating with Apple, we reached a certain consensus and WeChat will add the tip function back in.

Tipping official accounts is different from tipping writers. I think the tips should go to the authors. We did not regard authors as an independent entity at the very beginning, but in the future, tips will go directly to authors. Authors can contribute to different official accounts.

Tipping official accounts

Official accounts should not serve as the gateways of information. We never had such a plan. We wanted to improve the user experience, but not turn official accounts into such important sources. If user want such information, they can see it in WeChat Top Stories.

Small Games: Patience

When Mini Program came out, we were afraid they would rapidly become as popular as official account. For a platform like Mini Programs, we preferred to tighten it up from the start.

We hope to reach users and have them use Mini Programs through small games like Bottle Flip. We expect a lot of small games, and we need to be patient enough – even more patient than we are with other third party content. I don’t think Mini Programs are a C product. We need more time to lay the foundations for Mini Program, and then to let it grow. We don’t want Mini Programs to boom and bust.

We believe in Mini Programs because they represent a form of expression. Everything contains information. All information wants to be reached and passed along. Mini Programs are an information organizer and carrier. We hope they can express everything as a way to communicate with people. This is my abstract concept of the Mini Program.

We may even have more advantages than some mobile phone manufacturers as we can spread information everywhere. There may be some misconceptions about Mini Programs, and some on the outside may see them as a business opportunity. But we are never developing something specially for business use. In addition, Mini Programs are not intended for specific areas such as e-commerce or games, and we hope that Mini Programs will be a common platform.

Another misunderstanding is that WeChat will make Mini Programs some centralized diversion measure, but in fact we are still decentralizing the platform. In the WeChat home page, users can drop down to use Mini Programs. They are not given a portal, but a task bar or a shortcut.

On Corporate WeChat

Many companies have asked us how they can get customers outside of their enterprise through WeChat. There is clearly a demand here. How do employees incorporate WeChat messages to directly contact customers through corporate WeChat?

Corporate WeChat

What we have done is to connect WeChat accounts with corporate WeChat accounts. This allows connectivity of messages. Specifically, when a WeChat user adds a corporate WeChat user, it doesn’t matter whether the account is WeChat or corporate WeChat. We hope the connection can help enterprise employees. In this way, they don’t need to add WeChat customers or clients to their personal WeChat account. Instead, they can use the corporate WeChat account. This is the next step for WeChat in the future.

Next Step: Exploring Offline Life

The next thing we’re going to do may be the opposite of online. We plan to explore offline.

We’ve always had this idea of exploring the offline world. When WeChat came out, there was a function of exploring people nearby.

We will turn our eyes to various facilities in daily life and explore offline life. We hope to try something new in 2018, I think that exploring the wonderful life offline is a direction we want to try next.

This article by Wang Pan originally appeared in Tencent Technology and was translated by Pandaily.