Tencent has removed competitive barriers from WeChat, which will now allow users of the messaging, social media and mobile payment app to link and share e-commerce listings from major rivals. Promising to work to create a clean and upright online culture, the Chinese internet giant said that it plans to make the necessary changes in phases. The company also said it will work on features for sharing links in wider group discussions.
In addition, Tencent said it will also provide ways for its users to report links that violate laws and regulations, as well as create a rating system for external links, in order to ensure ‘high-quality content on the platform and a good user experience’.
Alibaba also vowed to comply and strongly support the ministry’s directive on making links accessible on each other’s platforms saying it was looking forward to finding common ground with other platforms.
ByteDance’s also stated that it will firmly carry out the new requirements, without any delay in implementation. The tech firm called for action on industry players to make no excuses, stick to specific timetables and actively implement them, in order to provide users with a safe, reliable and convenient network.
Tearing down the ‘Walled Garden’
Beijing’s strict new data laws now plan to tear down the practice of “walled gardens” by its handful of technology giants that have been dominating China’s internet. In a new regulatory shot, China’s top technology regulator – the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) – last week urged the country’s top internet and technology firms to end a long-standing practice of blocking each other’s links on their platforms.
In a high-level meeting earlier this month, which was attended by executives from technology companies reportedly including Alibaba, Tencent, ByteDance, Baidu, Huawei Technologies and Xiaomi, the ministry said it may have to resort to other measures if the firms did not comply.
Many of the country’s largest internet companies have historically resorted to built barriers around their ecosystems and blocked links as well as services by rivals on their platforms for decades.
Zhao Zhiguo, the spokesperson for the ministry, said during the meeting that, “Ensuring the legitimate sharing of URL links is a basic requirement for the development of the internet. Restricting normal access to internet links without proper reason affects user experience, damages the rights of users, and disrupts market order.”
The new measures come in the backdrop of Beijing’s latest efforts to curb the growing monopoly on data, encourage competition and protect consumer rights. Besides the technology sector, Chinese authorities have also pushed comprehensive regulatory crackdowns on other sectors like crypto-currency, healthcare, education and online games.