Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has confirmed that it has suspended all WeChat marketing applications from its shopping sites Taobao marketplace and Tmall.com. This means its customers can no longer use the messaging service WeChat — owned by Internet giant Tencent — to promote any products or liaise with customers.
The company says it is banning such value-added apps, the majority of which have been developed by independent software vendors — which sellers can subscribe to at fuwu.taobao.com — due to misuse by some sellers.
An Alibaba spokesperson tells TNW:
There is a faction of sellers, we have learned, who are using WeChat marketing applications to harass and disturb our users, in some cases even using the application to lead users outside of the Taobao Marketplace and Tmall.com payment process and putting consumer transactional security at risk; so we have therefore decided to temporarily suspend the subscription of WeChat-related applications in the seller-side service app market and encourage our sellers to conduct their marketing activities in a safe and legitimate manner.
It is not clear how long the suspension will last for, though not banning these apps outright means that Alibaba is likely monitoring the situation to see how things develop.
Aspokesman for Weixin (what WeChat is known as in China) declined to comment on Alibaba’s move, saying:
We do not comment on other company’s business decisions. We respect and support the provision of services by third-parties through our Weixin platform as long as these services align with our principles of creating value and enriching experiences for our users.
Alibaba has worked with Tencent before, though the collaboration was shortlived. In March this year, Taobao and WeChat launched a Taobao search account within the messaging app, which worked like a e-commerce search engine. However, that is no longer operational.
Instead, Alibaba has been cooperating with Sina Weibo — the Twitter-like microblogging platform in China that has seen competition from WeChat eroding the average users are spending there. Weibo has grown to number more than 400 million users, but its growth has slowed in recent times as WeChat gains traction. Earlier this month, Tencent announced that WeChat has chalked up 70 million overseas users — from a user base approaching over 400 million with 195 million monthly active users
In April, Alibaba acquired 18 percent of Sina Weibo with a $586 million investment, further illustrating the collaboration between the two companies.
Image via PETER PARKS/Getty Images