“Given that WeChat is heavily reliant on content delivery services in the United States to optimize the app — to make sure content can be delivered with necessary speeds — by prohibiting those services, users will experience some dysfunction and latency to the point there will be an outage or a message will time out,” said one of the officials. “We do expect it may be useable, but it may not be particularly functional after Sunday.”
Tencent said it was “reviewing” the Commerce Department’s announcement and has held “extensive discussions” in recent weeks seeking to address the US government’s concerns. Trump has made no demand for a sale or any other specific action, leaving no clear path to any resolution.
“WeChat was designed to serve international users outside of mainland China and has always incorporated the highest standards of user privacy and data security,” a company spokesperson said in a statement. “The restrictions announced today are unfortunate, but… we will continue to discuss with the government and other stakeholders in the U.S. ways to achieve a long-term solution.”
The app is common among older generations of immigrants who left China decades ago but want to stay connected. And during the pandemic, when traveling to China is complicated, expensive and involves an extra period in quarantine, many are staying put, making WeChat even more essential.
WeChat has been downloaded a total of 22 million times in the United States since January 2014, according to analytics firm Sensor Tower, accounting for around 7% of the app’s total downloads outside of China in that period. Sensor Tower estimates that 1.1 million first-time users have downloaded WeChat so far this year.
Tencent has previously emphasized that the international version of WeChat is separate from the Chinese app, which is known as Weixin.
Wedbush analyst Dan Ives said that it is unlikely the US ban will hit the Apple App Store in China. (Google’s Play Store is banned in China.)
“Despite the noise, based on our recent discussions with contacts within [Washington] we strongly believe the WeChat ban will not negatively impact or disrupt Apple’s iPhone ecosystem within the key China market,” Ives wrote in a note last week.
CNN’s Brian Fung, Kaya Yurieff, Sherisse Pham and Shannon Liao contributed to this report.