Chinese tech companies are not always keen to simply follow trends, and more and more they are defining them. The move from laptop to mobile has already begun, and Tencent aims to grab a piece of that transition with its latest WeChat update.
The news is that the newest version of WeChat, which was actually released quietly on November 1st, gives users the option to pull images from their computer web browser right on to their phones. In essence, any picture you find interesting that is loaded on your webpage, you can pull onto your phone by shaking it. From there you can send to friends or post it on WeChat’s social “Moments” network. In this way, given the sophistication of browsing on PCs compared to phones, the company is linking the two technologies before they become one and the same.
In order to set up the WebGrab tool, the user scans a QR code from their web browser after installing a plugin available for Chrome, Safari, Firefox, and Sogou. One shake and presto, the phone picks up any images from the site you are viewing. It even has integration with Facebook, so it is simple to get an image or an album you want to use later in WeChat.
I tested this on my own with Facebook, and it works quite well even using a VPN in China. I was able to pull up a friend’s album from Facebook almost immediately, even though my phone had no VPN.
One can imagine the goal of this update: Tencent is positioning WeChat to be the go-to application in China when people permanently think of mobile as social media. As soon as phones and tablets get more sophisticated browsers, Tencent will already have the hearts and minds (and photos) of the socially-savvy.
Tencent’s WeChat app has received almost universal approval from smartphone users in China, attracting more than 200 million users since its release in January 2011. Their QQ network already has the largest user-base of any chat app in the world and it is already integrated with WeChat. It can only go up from here.
WeChat supports 18 languages including English, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Indonesian, and Portuguese. You can check out the new WebGrab feature at their website here: http://www.wechatapp.com/shake