A WeChat messaging app logo is displayed on a smartphone.
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GUANGZHOU, China – For years, China’s major internet platforms have acted as walled gardens, blocking links from competitors and not allowing users to purchase goods using competitive payment products.
That is starting to change as regulators force China’s tech giants to tear down the walls and change some of their anti-competitive behavior.
Alibaba has begun allowing users to purchase items in some of its apps through WeChat Pay, its competitor Tencent’s payment service, the e-commerce giant told CNBC. Alibaba already has its own payment service Alipay, which is operated by its subsidiary Ant Group.
The food delivery app Ele.me and the video service Youku recently integrated WeChat Pay. Alibaba’s other apps Shuqi, Damai and Koala are now also supports Tencent’s payment service.
Alibaba also said it is awaiting approval from Tencent to bring WeChat Pay to its Idle Fish second hand market, Hema grocery app, and Taobao Deals discount shopping service.
It wasn’t known when Alibaba would bring WeChat Pay to its two main shopping apps – Taobao and Tmall.
“User experience and transaction security are our top priorities as we actively work to gradually introduce multiple payment methods across our platforms,” ââsaid a Taobao spokesman.
An Alibaba spokesman added that the company “will continue to find common ground with our peers in the platform economy to better serve Chinese consumers.”
Tencent wasn’t immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.
Alibaba and Tencent are two of China’s largest internet companies that have built a dominance through their extensive services, which often revolve around their so-called super apps.
Tencent operates China’s largest messaging app WeChat, which has over a billion users, while Alibaba’s subsidiary Ant Group operates Alipay.
Through these apps, users can access a range of services from food delivery to flight and hotel booking services. Without leaving these apps, people can pay for their goods and services.
But it has also created a situation where competitors would not allow each other’s services on their respective platforms for a long time.
Such practices have been put to the test by Chinese regulators who have introduced new rules in a number of areas, from data protection to antimonopoly.
Earlier this month, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) urged some of the country’s largest internet companies – including Alibaba, Tencent, and TikTok owner ByteDance – to stop blocking links to each other’s content.
Starting September 17, Tencent allowed users to access external links in one-on-one chats. For example, if someone shared a link from Alibaba’s Taobao on WeChat, a user could open it without leaving the messaging app. Previously, a user had to copy this link into the Taobao app.
The integration of WeChat Pay with Alibaba’s apps seems to go a step further.
It is unclear whether Tencent will attempt to get Alipay to use any of its services.
But opening up these apps could give users more choice and potentially help both Tencent and Alibaba reach some new users for their services.