China’s dominant messaging app WeChat, operated by internet and gaming giant Tencent, has rolled out 1 million “mini-programs”, or mini mobile applications that are built into the WeChat platform,since the initiative was launched in January last year.
And Tencent founder and chief executive Pony Ma Huateng said WeChat plans to expand the mini-program initiative to unlock new business opportunities.
The 1 million mark represents half the size of the Apple App Store, which recorded 2.1 million apps in April. Google Play Store, on the other hand, housed 2.6 million apps as of September.
Speaking at the World Internet Conference (WIC) in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province, Ma said that the mini-program initiative, aside from having a million apps, now has 200 million daily users.
The number of WeChat’s monthly active users surpassed 1 billion worldwide as of March, according to a report released by market research company iResearch. Also, the number of people in China with access to the internet has reached 802 million as of August.
WeChat’s mini apps cover various activities, including gaming, ride-hailing, online shopping, food delivery, government services, home services, image editing, investments, lending, and many more.
One of WeChat’s most popular mini-programs is the online game Tiao Yi Tiao, also known as “Jump Jump”, which accumulated 170 million daily active users within a month of its launch, and the number has surged to 390 million as of March.
With the file size capped at 10 megabytes, the mini-programs, built in WeChat’s proprietary programming language, load faster than other standalone apps downloaded to smartphones, and are relatively cheaper and easier to build than their iOS or Android counterparts, making them ideal for low-budget startups and developers.
In his speech, Ma said WeChat’s mini-programs are paving a path for his company to expand into the “internet of enterprise”. There are now 1.5 million developers and 2,300 third-party development platforms involved in the mini-programs, which are connected to over 200 categories of businesses.
Analysts believe that the “mini-programs” will enable WeChat to challenge Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android app ecosystems, and thus bring in more business opportunities.
Asked about the future of the mini-program initiative, Ma said Tencent hopes to create “an unrestricted environment for developers”.
“In the past, developers have to struggle in using different programming languages for multiple app ecosystems, as well as the concern over device adaptability and respective cost,” he said, adding that WeChat’s mini-programs can be China’s answer to the problem of cross-operating system development for application developers.
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