The city of Guangzhou will allow its residents to link their national identity cards to Tencent’s social media app WeChat using facial recognition technology, according to the Financial Times, in a further sign of the Chinese tech giant’s hold over the country’s online ecosystem.
The pilot program was announced by Guangzhou, the major city in southern Guangdong province, this week. It is expected to be rolled out across China next month, the official Xinhua news agency has reported.
WeChat started in 2011 as a mobile messaging service, but has since expanded into social media, voice and video calls, cloud storage, online shopping and financial services, including mobile payments. Investor optimism about Tencent’s ability to monetize data from WeChat’s 902m average daily logged-in users has helped the company’s stock price more than double since the start of 2017.
Despite this stunning performance, which saw the company’s valuation briefly surpass Facebook’s last month, analysts are still concerned that the group lacks diversity. “Tencent’s crisis is that its profit model is overly reliant on internet gaming,” said Zhang Yi, chief executive of iiMedia Research, a technology consultancy. “Expectations for Tencent are very high, but right now its actual value isn’t as high as its stock price suggests.”