WeChat launches mini-app feature

The new feature, which allows users to open mobile apps within WeChat, is likely to rival Apple's app store in China.
Written by Cyrus Lee, Contributor

Chinese technology giant Tencent on Monday announced a new "mini program" feature embedded within its popular messaging app WeChat, which allows users to open certain mobile apps downloaded on WeChat directly.

A number of popular mobile apps, including online shopping platform JD.com, restaurant review site dianping.com, and taxi-hailing app Didi Chuxing, already support the latest "mini program" feature, according to a Sina news report.

It means even if users do not download the above-mentioned apps to their mobile handsets, they are still able to open and use them in WeChat right away, bypassing the operating system.

WeChat payment will benefit most from the function, and the enhanced activities in WeChat will also help its monetization, according to another report.

The new feature's rollout is widely believed to have a huge impact on Apple's app store in China due to the immense usage of WeChat in the country. A recent release by Tencent indicates that its number of daily users had exceeded 768 million in September, and 50 percent of WeChat users spent 90 minutes on the application every day.

As Google Play remains inaccessible in China, Chinese consumers use third-party app stores for their Android-powered mobile systems, and service providers of these apps are also likely to be challenged by WeChat's new feature.

However, some Chinese technology insiders believe the utilization of the "mini program" may not become a trend as many of the apps for WeChat are simplified versions and users still need to click the original app on the mobile screen for full functionality.

Some netizens also said they found shifting apps within WeChat's "mini program" as bothersome as shifting between mobile apps as normal.

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