Fri 22 October 2021:
Tencent’s WeChat has made its content searchable on some foreign search engines such as Alphabet-owned Google and Microsoft’s Bing, Reuters checks showed, in the latest tearing down of “walled gardens” in China’s internet sector.
Content from China’s most popular messaging app WeChat, including articles and videos on its popular public accounts page, a function similar to a news portal, has opened to external search engines, other than Tencent’s own Sogou search engine, in recent days.
Tencent, Google and Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Google is not available in China.
China’s internet sector has been long dominated by a handful of technology giants who have historically blocked each other’s rivals’ links as well as their search crawlers. The practice is often referred to as ‘walled gardens’.
In recent months, this practice has been targeted by Chinese authorities as part of a sweeping regulatory crackdown.
Last month, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) ordered companies to stop blocking links, which they said has affected users’ experience and damaged consumer rights.
The MIIT has been studying plans and conducting research to make WeChat content available on external search engines, according to a person with direct knowledge.
MIIT and Tencent did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
WeChat content however, is not yet searchable on Baidu, China’s dominant search engine, according to Reuters checks. Baidu didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Citi analysts said in a Tuesday note that the potential “opening up of the social ecosystem to search engine” was a positive development for Baidu, as its “leading search gateway position has been weakened and diluted by the growth and dominance of super apps.”
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