China’s WeChat, owned by Tencent, announced the company’s new mini-programs feature. The messaging app allows users to open some mobile apps directly inside of WeChat. The move keeps users on the WeChat app longer and is supported by several apps already, including Didi Chuxing, a ride-hailing app.
Users don’t need to download the apps to open them inside of WeChat. The apps bypass the operating system and open quickly in WeChat.
WeChat’s founder Allen Zhang states, “Apps can be absolutely everywhere, you can use them anytime, but you don’t need to install anything.” The launch coincides with the ten-year anniversary of the iPhone.
The feature allows for a native-like experience in WeChat similar to Android or iOS apps. The light apps are built into WeChat so that they open quickly and never need to be installed. Developers can reduce development time and resources needed to produce the app by using WeChat’s native environment.
WeChat’s goal for the new feature is to keep users on the app more often while reducing the usage of Android and iOS apps. Tencent’s products account for 55% of all Chinese mobile usage. Chinese mobile users spend 35% of their time on WeChat already.
Mini-apps will strengthen the app’s stronghold on the Chinese market.
Tencent states that the company won’t release an app store for their mini programs. The company has monetization potential with in-app advertisements, analytic services and payments.
WeChat’s mini-programs mimic an app ecosystem, allowing for a device-neutral operating system. The company’s feature further enables online-to-offline interactions.
Tencent’s daily users reached 768 million in September, with 50% of users spending 90 minutes on the WeChat app per day. The mini-app feature runs lite versions of many apps. Users will need to clock on the original app to gain full functionality of the app.
Mini-programs are expected to have an impact on Apple’s app store in China.