Fight against Baidu & Bytedance, Here comes WeChat


When people stand in different positions, the world they see may be completely different.


Yuri Milner, the founder of DST, should be the most resourceful investor in the world. In the article “Sharing Bicycles: The Central Bureau of the Capital Bureau” in Caijing Magazine, it was written:


Facebook once wanted to invest in ofo, but Yuri Milner, the founder of DST, firmly persuaded the board of ofo not to agree. “Facebook’s biggest global competitor is actually Tencent, and Facebook will not enter China in the short term.”


I mentioned in the article “Cheng Wei” that I am distressed, that behind each generation of hardware platforms, there will be a super application. Because of the existence of network effects, this super application can become the software hegemon on the hardware platform, binding the vast majority of users, thus achieving almost the same status as the hardware platform.


In the English world, this super application is Facebook, and in the Chinese world this application is WeChat, both of which are superior to iOS and Android and truly belong to the overlord of the smartphone era.


According to the financial report just released by Tencent today, WeChat’s monthly active users have reached 938 million. It is not so much that WeChat may become the entrance to the mobile Internet, it is better to say that WeChat has almost become the mobile Internet itself.


In the future, most things are likely to revolve around WeChat, and Baidu and Alibaba have great potential risks (social relations and scenarios are the biggest trump cards of all products. You can see how miserable Alipay’s market share is robbed. Up).


Looking internationally, as Yuri saw, there will be a battle between Facebook and Tencent in the future.


In fact, Facebook is a community-based product for information flow, and its products are more inclusive, while WeChat is currently a communication tool. From the perspective of profitability, all pure tool products have very low imagination (most of them can only rely on banner advertising space to make money).


From this point of view, Facebook’s product advantage is much greater, so Facebook itself is the overlord whose market value exceeds Tencent (95% of its revenue comes from advertising), while WeChat itself does not have much profitability. Tencent still depends on games to make money.


Everyone knows that WeChat is good, but how do you turn this “good” into a tangible return on the book? For a listed company, I believe this has always been a problem hanging over Tencent.


The advantage of WeChat as a communication tool is that users are extremely sticky. Facebook, as a community product, makes up for this disadvantage by investing in and acquiring products such as Whatsapp and Instagram. However, WeChat can only rely on itself to make up for the product attributes of the community.


Looking back, every step of Zhang Xiaolong’s position is actually working hard in this direction:


1) First make the chat tool perfect, and use Tencent’s existing advantages to occupy users and allow users to establish relationships;

2) Then open Moments to allow users to distribute and consume UGC content;

3) Start to build a public account ecosystem, introduce various media and companies, etc., to add PGC content to the platform.


So correspondingly, the current behavior of WeChat users is:


1) Chat communication

2) Publish and consume UGC content

3) Forward and consume PGC content


In fact, this kind of user scenario seems to be very close to Facebook’s community form, so why is Facebook’s advertising revenue so high, but WeChat is difficult to generate revenue?


As I mentioned in this article about the fortune and dilemma of “Toutiao”, the News Feed product is one of the greatest product inventions of this century. The information flow products are divided into two main schools, one is the algorithm recommendation like the headline, and the other is the social recommendation like the circle of friends.


The feeling of algorithm recommendation to users is the result of third-party recommendation, and the website decides what I watch; while social recommendation is the result of reposting by friends under the following relationship, and I decide what I watch.


Now, basically all social recommendations are integrated with algorithmic recommendations. For example, some users’ Weibo homepages have been replaced by hot pages instead of friends following dynamics; for example, Douban and Zhihu’s previous homepage logic updates are purely following relationships. , It becomes “follow + system algorithm recommendation”, which ultimately allows the user’s information flow to achieve a mixed result of social + algorithm recommendation.

On the other hand, it is out of nothing to join the social network on top of the algorithm, and it is even more difficult, so the “headline dilemma” I mentioned in the article above refers to the lack of social relationships.


So why Toutiao and Baidu can make a lot of money from advertising, but Zhihu and Douban are so difficult? Why do these social-attribute information flow platforms have to shift to the road recommended by algorithms?


Because what information flow advertising has to do is:


1) What users see should be in the hands of the company, not the relationship between users

2) Put as many advertisements as possible into the information flow without causing users to be offended

3) The closer the advertisement is to the original content and the closer to user needs, the better


To satisfy the above, it is necessary to rely on objective algorithm recommendations. (If users decide what they can see, how can they insert ads?)


In social recommendation, the stronger the user’s previous social relationship and the stronger the user’s awareness of private territory, the more difficult it is to advertise. If the sense of ownership of users in a certain community is too strong, and there are distinct and mainstream values, it is a good thing from the perspective of the community atmosphere, but it is more difficult to advertise and monetize.


This is why the original version of Douban would arouse users’ abuse, and Zhihu’s slight monetization attempts would arouse users’ disgust.


The WeChat ecosystem is only more extreme than Douban and Zhihu.


Moments is the user’s private domain and is completely recommended by social media. Therefore, the user’s tolerance is too low and it is very difficult to advertise. After experimenting with Moments ads for so long, it was fun and restrained. In the end, it was estimated that it was detrimental to the user experience, so there was no large-scale promotion.


It is much easier to recommend advertisements by machines. Products with strong reading and media attributes such as Toutiao and Weibo seem to be mixed with one advertisement with about seven pieces of content. The user’s own behavior and expectation is to scan the content, so it is The advertisement is also passed by, there will not be too much resistance.


Therefore, if WeChat wants to be as profitable as Facebook, it must introduce an algorithmic recommendation mechanism, and Moments products are too extreme, and it is difficult to become a product of social and algorithmic recommendation. Then there is only one choice left for WeChat, which is to reproduce it alone. Make a product function recommended by an algorithm.

Therefore, there is the “take a look” in this new version of WeChat.


On the one hand, the function of this product is similar to the value of a “headline” product, allowing users to always have content to read, and can become one of the entrances for users to obtain diverse information. On the other hand, it makes the WeChat product itself more profitable. possibility.


It can be said that for all information flow platforms, products such as “take a look” must be supplemented, so this is a step that WeChat must take, and it is also a must for Weibo, Baidu and other products (and is working hard) Toutiao just happened to stand on this strategic ground, so it will be more difficult to defend in the future. (The headline is actually breaking the game from the video, so I won’t talk about it in this article.)


In fact, “take a look” is functionally equivalent to the “friends circle hot post” under the previous search portal, except that the location of the entrance is separately mentioned. More worth mentioning than this feature is the “Sou Yi Sou” of WeChat’s update this time.

Why is it worth mentioning that “Search for a search” is more important than “take a look”? Because Souyisou looks the same as the original “search” function, but in fact it has made a huge breakthrough. The main manifestation is the addition of search results other than WeChat.


For example, if you search for “cold”, you can see the content of Sogou Encyclopedia and Zhihu. Searching for “Yao Ming” leads to content such as “Tencent News”, “Netease Sports”, and “Sohu News”.


This is actually the most terrifying place. Basically, this is going to be a direct attack on Baidu.


As we said at the beginning, WeChat can now be said to be the mobile Internet itself. So how difficult is it to recreate a Baidu-level Internet content portal inside WeChat?


Baidu’s search results have 10 per page. As far as experience is concerned, the search results of the first 2 to 3 pages can generally meet the needs of most users. The value of the content after 10 pages decays very severely. The content should basically not be read by anyone.


Therefore, as long as there are 20-30 high-quality content under a certain topic, and 100-200 total content, it can basically simulate the overall effect of the Internet.


Today, when few people continue to do websites (or even APPs), can the content produced by more than 12 million official accounts in the WeChat system meet the effects we mentioned above?


I think it is okay to satisfy at least 80%. In this way, coupled with the addition of other external content, the real WeChat search will be able to compete with Baidu in the long run. (Remember the importance of the stickiness and the scene we mentioned at the beginning? Maybe one day in the future, searching in WeChat will become more natural like paying with WeChat)


Therefore, we can think of every public account as a website, and every article as a webpage, and the websites and webpages here are strictly in accordance with WeChat’s own rules from content to advertising. .


As a result, Tencent’s control over the mobile Internet is much better than Baidu’s control over the PC Internet.


Furthermore, the public number articles on the head are sorted and summarized by professional editors, which are search results with natural knowledge structure attributes.


Li Yanhong mentioned in his internal speech at the beginning of the year:


1) In a sense, our future search may gradually transition from an engine that indexes keywords to an engine that indexes knowledge.


2) Feed stream products that we attach great importance to. In the past, the traditional search was that people were looking for information, but now it will gradually evolve to information looking for people.


(I also said in the article “Ambition and Endgame” in Zhihu that Zhihu’s end may be the entrance to knowledge search.)


Now, WeChat is fully capable of accomplishing the two points mentioned by Robin Li through “search and search” and “take a look.”

The above picture is the result of my search for “How to play the King of Glory”. Unexpectedly, the current results of WeChat are significantly better than Baidu, and even Zhihu is stronger than Baidu’s results. Everyone must take a look and feel the power of structured knowledge search in the future.


Finally, “Sou Yisou” can open more unique functions in the future, and Tencent’s investment layout in the past few years has more rationality at this moment. From Fenda, Zhihu, to Meituan Dianping, or JD, etc. (this actually implies the “connection service” that Robin Li called), all can be organically combined by searching this portal.

Having said so much, there is one last question left to answer.


For WeChat, whether it is to do headline reading content or Baidu-like mobile search, it has always been a choice on the table. So why is it still in “experiment” to this day?


I think the only problem is that the product is too heavy and redundant.


I wrote in this article Decrypting Snapchat | Social Product Syllogism:


If you open WeChat one day, it means slow loading, complicated functions, etc. At this time, it is very likely that I will start to slowly transfer the people I contact most to the new platform, and gradually form the migration of the relationship chain. In my opinion, this is one of the only two possibilities for new social products to challenge WeChat. The other possibility is the emergence of new hardware platforms, which completely subvert the mobile phone communication tool (most likely AR, but it may take 5-10 Years later, WeChat, like Baidu today, will have a difficulty to overcome).


So, to put it simply, social products die of complex redundancy, and die of slowness and heaviness. Zhang Xiaolong’s restraint really gave WeChat long-term vitality.


Will WeChat after adding “Toutiao” and “Baidu” be too heavy? If you want to add the video dimension to it, it feels terrible when you think of it.


I guess this problem has always been Zhang Xiaolong’s biggest problem, and no one knows what WeChat will do in the future. The only thing we know so far is:


For WeChat, “Look and See” and “Sou Yi Sou” are currently only available in the “Lab” module. But as long as this step is taken, it is equivalent to a frontal declaration of war on Baidu. Now that war has been declared, you must follow quickly to keep up, otherwise it is equivalent to stunning the snake.



Tencent is just 18 years old. If we use the time dimension Ma Yun called 102 years to guess and predict a company, Tencent’s future imagination space is really huge.


What WeChat is doing now is actually self-certifying its identity and trying its best to cater to everyone’s expectations. Ultimately, WeChat’s status to Tencent should not be lower than Ant Financial’s status to Ali.


If in the end, the analogy to Facebook is still Tencent instead of WeChat, this is the biggest failure of Tencent and WeChat.



Note: On April 25, 2017, according to major media reports, Tencent’s WeChat business group was adjusted. In this structural adjustment, the “Search Application Department” was established under the WeChat business group.