Eagle-eyed users of Douyin (known as TikTok abroad) have spotted a new addition to the app following the latest iOS update. Starting October 24, the app has an option, under settings, to access “mini programs.”
The function currently only allows access to “mini programs you’ve used,” which for all users currently total… zero. But the feature indicates that the hot live-streaming app will soon enter the mini-program fray alongside the likes of BAT and fellow Bytedance product Toutiao.
Tencent’s WeChat, of course, was the first to launch mini programs – limited-function apps of under 10 MB – into its own ecosystem in early 2017. Since then, competitors Alibaba and Baidu have sunk considerable resources into developing mini-programs, while just last month content aggregator Toutiao announced that it was testing out its own system.
Douyin, like Toutiao, falls under Bytedance’s brand, but it seems to be taking a quieter approach than its sister app.
A Toutiao insider told 36kr that “[Douyin’s mini programs] use the same code as Jinri Toutiao’s mini-programs.” If the situation is similar to Alibaba’s system, which launched across platforms Alipay, Amaps (aka Autonavi and 高德地图), and Ele.me simultaneously, Bytedance could theoretically integrate mini programs across multiple platforms after it finishes testing.
According to 36kr, mini-program development has merited the personal attention of Bytedance founder and CEO Zhang Yiming. Toutiao reportedly had plans to launch mini programs back in March but delayed the launch due to the volume of technical work.
Once completed, the move could prove path-breaking for both Douyin and Toutiao – despite their popularity, they simply don’t offer as many different types of services as dominant apps WeChat and Alipay. A broad array of mini programs could help supplement that lack, keeping users glued to their apps even longer than before.
Of course, its competitors are also attempting to keep audiences within their own ecosystems, resulting in some complex platform politics. Since April Tencent has banned WeChat users from sharing external links to short videos on Bytedance’s Douyin, Huoshan, and Xigua platforms, as well as Kuaishou, ostensibly to vet inappropriate content. In response to recent claims that it’s once again possible to share Kuaishou videos on WeChat, Tencent responded that the ban is still active but that developers had used mini-programs to get around the restriction.