WeChat has over 10 million content creators on its platform -- and this week, many of them are rejoicing over the return of one app feature: Tipping.

Before we explain what that is, let’s back up a bit: How does publishing work on China’s biggest social network?

Just like Facebook, WeChat lets businesses, media outlets and others share content with users. Through WeChat’s Official Accounts Platform almost anyone can set up an account and publish their work.

But unlike Facebook’s news feed, which decides what content a user sees based on an algorithm, WeChat only displays accounts you’ve followed under the “Subscriptions” section. It also allows you to choose which accounts you want to see first.

China’s ubiquitous social network WeChat has over 1 billion monthly active users. (Picture: Shutterstock)

The system has been a huge contributor to the boom of online content in China. Over 10 million accounts regularly publish on WeChat, ranging from established news organizations and industry blogs, to individuals who just want to share their thoughts with a wider audience.

And this is where tipping comes in. The feature, which forms a big part of China’s internet culture, allows netizens to reward authors they like with cash.

It had been available on WeChat for years, but last April WeChat disabled the function on iOS devices after it was deemed in violation of Apple’s rules. The rules state that purchases made on Apple platforms must use Apple’s payment methods, with Apple taking a 30% processing fee.    

The removal triggered an outcry among WeChat’s publishing community and even stirred a debate about whether to ditch Apple devices. As a temporary solution, WeChat suggested that publishers put up QR codes of their personal WeChat Pay accounts to receive the money.

After months of protests from publishers, Apple and WeChat reached an agreement earlier this year to bring back tipping. Almost five months later, WeChat announced this week that the function is finally back on iOS devices.

The updated function features a button called “like the author”, and the money will be sent directly to an author’s personal account via a mini-program.

Readers can choose the amount of tips set by publishers, or give any amount they like. (Picture: Tencent)

In the announcement, WeChat thanked Apple for its support of the update.

Under a recent article that received tips from more than 1,190 people, Tech blogger Fenng commented, “Most content creators don’t earn that much with the tips anyway, but it’s a subtle emotional expression. Without it, it was like losing the bond with your readers -- it just wasn’t fun anymore.”