WeChat has included external sources in in-app search results pages (SERP) while it previously only searches chats, WeChat Moments, and Official Accounts. Some users start to see a “news” section in the WeChat SERP which includes external news sources.
The search box is on top of WeChat main user interfaces (Chats; Contacts; Discover); I conducted a search for “Jay Chou”, a very famous Taiwanese celebrity, and saw the following results:
WeChat groups search results in sections (left): emoji, WeChat Moments, music (songs shared in WeChat Moments in the last 30 days), and related articles (center). The related articles have now included external sources other than official accounts articles such as the one on the right of the screen capture.
Most are articles from Official Accounts; and, I found two external sources Zhihu and Sogou Baike. It can’t be certain whether they are included previously not part of ongoing update as Tencent merged its search engine Soso with Sogou in 2013 and funded the Q&A platform Zhihu.
Currently, not all users see external sources or the new “news” section in the search results on WeChat. Even one can see that section with one keyword, not all search terms can trigger the display of the news section. This feature seems still under testing.
WeChat opens external web pages directly; and, in most cases, the loading speed and user experience are not as good as those from Official Accounts. If Tencent is to include external sources to WeChat search, it could benefit by adopting a similar approach as Facebook’s Instant Articles, Google’s AMP, or Baidu’s MIP.
Tencent reported 889 million monthly active (MAU) users on WeChat in Q4 2016, which makes WeChat potentially a serious player and a challenger to Baidu in China’s mobile search market.
Baidu has 78% market share by total revenues in China’s search engine market in 2016. This market will grow from 76.1 billion yuan (US$11.05 bn) to 113.4 billion yuan (US$16.47 bn) in 2019. A huge MAU doesn’t necessarily equal to a good deal of search volumes.
Can WeChat seriously challenge Baidu’s mobile search? Not in the near future. A huge WeChat MAU doesn’t necessarily equal to a good deal of search volumes. And, the quality of the mobile search algorithm and experiences are not something Tencent can easily beat.
Update (24 Apr 2017): Tencent has set up search application department under WeChat Business Unit, according to Leiphone and confirmed by Tencent. The search application department is responsible for WeChat’s search business, reading recommendation business, AI technology realization, WeChat data platform development, and data capabilities.
Continue to read→ Top WeChat stats and trends 2016