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Has The WeChat Time Capsule Bubble Burst?

WeChat’s Time Capsule launch has failed.

That’s what my instincts were telling me. I had seen less and less of the tell-tale blue circle throughout my contacts. So I had 10 different volunteers document how many time capsules they saw per week.

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In the 14 days we captured usage declined by 34%. Weekends saw increased activity but during the week time capsule usage is minimal. As each volunteer had over 600 friends (some as many as 1400), there is a minimum of 6000 points of reference for TC creation.

We also surveyed 87 people to see if we could gauge the sentiment towards the Time Capsule feature.

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Almost 1 in 3 people surveyed had never heard of the Time Capsule feature.

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Of those that had heard of Time Capsules, just over 1 in 3 had created a Time Capsule.

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Over half of those surveyed confessed to rarely ever viewing a Time Capsule. With only 10% showing any real interest in the feature itself.

Yet Tencent has a history of releasing features, and just testing and trying changes until it sticks. Mini programs are probably their greatest example of this in action.

Mini Programs

When WeChat Mini Programs were released early adoption rates were low. Limited by who could create them and what you could use them for, MPs just did not see much use. Various publications were quick to dismiss their usefulness.

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A typical article following the launch of Mini Programs in early 2017.

However online/offline commerce & games should be credited with MPs eventual success. Memberships, discount cards, and point schemes became tremendously easy to use. Tencent’s first game, Jump Jump, spurred their adoption further. Jump Jump was so popular McDonald’s & Nike spent over 5 million RMB to be featured.

With over 1 million active MPs and over 200 million active daily users MPs are undoubtedly a massive success. The majority of users are spending up to 7% of their salary through these apps.

So while WeChat doesn’t always get it right immediately. They do get it right eventually.

What’s next for Time Capsules?

Time Capsules were definitely launched as a response to the growing number of video apps in China. Some of which, have had insanely high adoption rates that stagger belief. Bytedance’s Douyin (TikTok) cemented itself as the definitive video sharing app globally.

While WeChat is not just a chat app it certainly has not been the best platform for brands and KOLs to improve their discoverability. Which is how other apps have been able to grow so rapidly. There is a real demand for platforms in which people can create content to grow their audience quickly.

We feel that bringing Time Capsules to the forefront (as seen in our mockup below) would definitely help the feature become more popular.

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We would like to see Time Capsules become easier to consume in a central feed.

Tencent are always exciting to watch when they innovate. The current limited functionality of Time Capsules are certain to become more feature packed in the future. Tencent has always been interested in Augmented Reality, so I hope to see even more AR functions make their way to WeChat. The Time Capsule feature seems like an ideal home for AR to live within their ecosystem.

Privacy should also be addressed. While conducting the survey people shared concerns about who could see Time Capsules. Some people weren’t even sure where Time Capsules would end up visible. Because the average WeChat user has a mix or private and personal contacts, being able to limit who can view them would help allay these concerns.

Brands too are keen to get in on the action. Hungry for new creative ways to communicate with their audience. To have new ways to grow their presence. Which is why so many of them are looking at the blue ocean possibilities with Douyin.

If privacy, discoverability, and ease of viewing is addressed Time Capsules have a real shot of being disruptive towards other video platforms. Something that I feel is a real possibility.

Time Capsules right now might not be something impressive. Yet I’m convinced in the future they’re going to be something incredible.

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