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WeChat Officially Replaces the App Store
Months after the official announcement, WeChat Mini Apps are finally here.
On November 18, Zhang Xialong, Tencent Senior Vice President and the “Father of WeChat”, posted a picture on Moments of his home screen filled with WeChat Mini Apps. This suggests that the apps themselves can actually be placed on the home screen, not just inside WeChat itself, at least for Android phones.
At the beginning of 2016, Zhang Xiaolong introduced the idea of “an app within an app within WeChat”, saying, “These are apps these are apps that you don’t need to install; you can open them simply by searching or scanning a QR code. This make for one-time use apps.”
On September 22, Tencent officially sent out two-hundred invitations for closed beta testing of the Mini Apps. Lifestyle companies like Dianping, Miaoyan Movie, and Hainan Airlines participated in testing the platform.
Just as with other application stores, WeChat Mini Apps will be vetted, by either Tencent or a certified third party. WeChat promises that all apps within the Mini App store will meet security and safety requirements.
With WeChat’s already large user base, attracting users should not be a problem. And for users, the benefits are obvious: users no longer need to download all their Mini Apps, thus saving space; plus, when switching phones, Mini Apps don’t need to be re-downloaded.
For service providers, they don’t need to invest large amounts into app development. Rather they can easily build a Mini App and test market viability. What’s more, WeChat Mini Apps are by nature cross platform: they exist solely within WeChat, completely negating the common problems with compatibility across so many different phone models.
There is also speculation that, in the long term, Mini Apps may even threaten aggregation platforms such as Tmall. Brands, merchandisers, and retailers can now simply create their own Mini Apps for users to browse and purchase products, directly inside WeChat.
WeChat, like Facebook, is quickly becoming more than just a social media platform. Now, with Mini Apps, their domination of China’s attention will only grow.