You might have noticed that your WeChat, coming to you as it does from the good people at Tencent, isn’t actually called “WeChat” anymore; it’s now “Weixin”. And WeChat Pay is now “Weixin Pay”. There’s also been many reports online of people being asked to verify their phone numbers or bank details again. Some users are seeing a message asking them to "change their mobile phone number" or "migrate to Weixin".
What’s the deal with that ?
WeChat isn’t just only WeChat anymore. It’s now two separate entities. “WeChat” is now the international version, running on data-centers outside China. And “Weixin” is the local Chinese version, running on data-centers within China. If you are using a local Chinese phone number, you are now using Weixin, the local Chinese version.
There’s no official explanation but a few reasons have been offered by industry observers that would explain Tencent’s move.
For one, China’s new privacy protection laws that we wrote about here have implemented heavy restrictions on transferring personal user information between Chinese and overseas servers.
On the other hand, others are speculating it may be related to the Executive Order signed by US President Donald Trump (your favorite) last year. Tencent's 微 and its parent company Tencent were included in the proposed ban of Chinese tech apps by the (then) US government. The ban wasn’t actually enacted after a California court halted it. However, in order to avoid the risk of being "blocked" again at some point down the line, WeChat has begun to completely migrate international users to an independent WeChat. This is Tencent attempting to comply with the differing internet data regulations of various countries.
A third reason might be a recent move of the Chinese gov’ banning English terms for things in the public domain. See: renamed subway stations in Shanghai and Beijing.
And this affects me… how?
To put it simply, users who bind overseas mobile phones in the future will use the software called "WeChat", while users who bind domestic mobile phones will use “Weixin”.
The good news is the two systems can still talk to each other and are compatible, even though some users report that they can’t receive messages from WeChat to Weixin during night hours.
Users of the international version WeChat no longer have access to the same number of features, such as some games, video services, live streaming, and health codes.