China’s WeChat plans to resurrect tipping button after agreement with Apple

WeChat, with nearly 1 billion users, is the most popular app in China that integrates messaging, payment, gaming, content publishing. (Reuters)
Updated 15 January 2018
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China’s WeChat plans to resurrect tipping button after agreement with Apple

HONG KONG: China’s largest social media platform WeChat plans to resurrect its “tipping” feature used to send cash to content creators, after removing it from Apple Inc’s iOS devices last year over an app-store rules dispute with the US firm.
Tencent Holdings’ WeChat has reached an understanding with Apple regarding this “feature with Chinese characteristics,” Allen Zhang, the creator and president of WeChat, said at the annual WeChat developers conference in Guangzhou on Monday.
The new tipping button would be tweaked so that payments go to individual authors, instead of the WeChat public account holders, Zhang added, without giving any further details on when exactly the feature would be reintroduced on iOS.
Apple did not immediately reply to an email seeking comment. In September, the US firm had modified its app store rule to exempt personal cash gifts from being counted as in-app purchases, of which Apple takes a 30 percent cut.
WeChat, with nearly 1 billion users, is the most popular app in China that integrates messaging, payment, gaming, content publishing, as well as “mini programs” that look and operate much like apps on iOS and Google’s Android operating systems — but are far less data-intensive.
The launch of “mini-programs” last January was seen by many as a threat to Apple’s and Google’s duopoly over the app-store ecosystem, but Tencent has repeatedly said it was not seeking to compete against Apple or to kill apps.
There are now some 580,000 mini-programs on WeChat with 170 million daily active users, Gerald Hu, a WeChat manager told the conference. More than 1 million developers and 2,300 third-party platforms are currently working on WeChat mini-programs.
According to Zhang, the current adoption of mini-programs is fully in line with expectations. “We have plenty of patience for mini-programs,” Zhang said.
On Monday, WeChat also announced a partnership with French video game developer Ubisoft, whose mobile game publisher Ketchapp will start launching WeChat-based games.
WeChat-based games have already accumulated 310 million users.


Russian scientists find defect in new heavy lift space rocket engine

Updated 18 January 2019
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Russian scientists find defect in new heavy lift space rocket engine

  • The new heavy lift space rocket is capable of carrying more than 20 tons into the orbit
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin said the project is very important for the country's defense

MOSCOW: Scientists have discovered a defect in the engines of Russia’s new flagship heavy lift space rocket that could destroy it in flight, an apparent setback to a project President Vladimir Putin has said is vital for national security.
The Angara A5, which was test-launched in 2014, is being developed to replace the Proton M as Russia’s heavy lift rocket, capable of carrying payloads bigger than 20 tons into orbit. A launch pad for the new rocket is due to open in 2021.
In July, Putin said the Angara A5 had “huge significance” for the country’s defense and called on space agency Roscosmos to work more actively on it and to meet all its deadlines.
The issue with the Angara A5 was brought to attention by scientists at rocket engine manufacturer Energomash in a paper ahead of a space conference later this month.
The paper, reported by RIA news agency on Friday and published online, said the engines of the Angara A5 could produce low frequency oscillations that could ultimately destroy the rocket.
A special valve had been fitted to mitigate the issue, but in some cases the oscillations continued, it said. Energomash did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Russia’s space program has been dogged by mishaps in recent years, including failed cargo delivery missions into space and the aborted launch in October of the manned Soyuz mission to the International Space Station. Russia’s current heavy lift rocket, the Proton M, has had a nearly 10 percent failure rate in more than 100 launches since it entered service in 2001, creating pressure to reorganize and improve the space program.