China’s largest social media platform WeChat plans to resurrect its “tipping” feature used to send cash to content creators, after removing it from Apple’s iOS devices last year over an app-store rules dispute with the US firm.
Tencent Holdings’ WeChat has reached an understanding with Apple regarding this “feature with Chinese characteristics”, Allen Zhang, the creator and president of WeChat, said at the annual WeChat developers conference in Guangzhou on Monday.
The new tipping button would be tweaked so that payments go to individual authors, instead of the WeChat public account holders, Zhang added, without giving any further details on when exactly the feature would be reintroduced on iOS.
Apple did not immediately reply to an email seeking comment. In September, the US firm had modified its app store rule to exempt personal cash gifts from being counted as in-app purchases, of which Apple takes a 30 percent cut.
WeChat, with nearly 1 billion users, is the most popular app in China that integrates messaging, payment, gaming, content publishing, as well as “mini programmes” that look and operate much like apps on iOS and Google’s Android operating systems – but are far less data-intensive.
The launch of “mini-programmes” last January was seen by many as a threat to Apple’s and Google’s duopoly over the app-store ecosystem, but Tencent has repeatedly said it was not seeking to compete against Apple or to kill apps.
There are now some 580,000 mini-programmes on WeChat with 170 million daily active users, Gerald Hu, a WeChat manager told the conference. More than 1 million developers and 2,300 third-party platforms are currently working on WeChat mini-programmes.
According to Zhang, the current adoption of mini-programmes is fully in line with expectations. “We have plenty of patience for mini-programmes,” Zhang said.
On Monday, WeChat also announced a partnership with French video game developer Ubisoft, whose mobile game publisher Ketchapp will start launching WeChat-based games.