Tencent said opening WeChat content to Google and Bing searches was "a bug"

October 22, 2021 7:54 pm

Earlier today, Reuters reported that content of some WeChat official accounts appeared on Google and Bing search result. However, the practice was denied by Tencent, the owner of WeChat, as the company said that the random appearances of WeChat posts were due to bugs in the popular message app's backend.

"We were updating our platforms, and there emerged some bugs on the protocols, by which web crawlers can track our content," the company said to reporters. "The bugs have been fixed."

Super app WeChat has 1.2 billion monthly active users worldwide. It was not only a message app, but also the place where Chinese people read news and articles. Now, almost every Chinese major news outlet has a public account on the platform. However, the content on WeChat has long been inaccessible on Google and Bing. Their content is not available on China's top search engine Baidu, either.

This was called a digital "walled gardens" phenomenon, where Tencent firmly controlled ad traffic for WeChat content. In the meantime, Baidu has its own system of guiding the traffic through a system of news account subscription, called "Baijiahao."

An example of the consequences is that if Baidu wants to attach an advertisement to an article posted on WeChat public account, the tech firm can't do it on its search engine. It has to ask Tencent for a bid, which might charge them high prices.

Recently, Bloomberg reported that the Chinese regulators mulled making WeChat accessible to Baidu searches, but there hasn't been any announcement related yet.

Previously on WeChat, links to Alibaba's Taobao marketplace and ByteDance's Douyin short video service can't be viewed or even redirected. But last month, WeChat chopped link-blocking at Chinese regulators' request in the efforts of tearing down "walled gardens."