ByteDance-backed short video app Douyin, known as TikTok internationally, has rolled out a long-awaited mini-program feature, allowing users to access various services without leaving the app. The feature is currently only available in its Android app and not yet on iOS.

Mini-programs, initially created for Wechat, are lightweight alternatives to apps that run inside existing applications on a user’s mobile phone.

In October, users found a “mini-program” section in the app’s settings. However, mini-programs only became functional on Dec. 13.

The feature is currently being used by several popular accounts on Douyin. For example, by tapping a small green icon in a promotional video posted by Universal Studios, users are redirected to a mini-program for China’s popular ticketing platform Maoyan to purchase tickets for The Grinch. Payment can be made through Alipay.

A mini-program within Douyin’s app. (Image credit: Jisuyingyong)

Douyin mini-programs can also be shared externally to WeChat in the form of QR codes. WeChat users activate a Douyin mini-program by scanning the codes.

Tencent’s WeChat first launched the mini-program feature in 2017. After a slow start, the feature’s popularity has ballooned, with 1.5 million developers having created more than 1 million mini-programs as of November this year.

Chinese tech giants have attempted to catch up to capitalize on the rise of the easy-to-use feature. In 2018, both Alibaba’s Alipay and Baidu included mini-programs into their ecosystem. Douyin’s sister app Toutiao is also testing its own mini-programs.

Integration of mini-program could boost Douyin’s social e-commerce functions in providing users with better shopping experiences and creating an all-in-one entertainment and shopping platform. This comes in line with the boom of content-driven e-commerce in China. Douyin rival Kuaishou doubled on e-commerce features this week through the launch of updated e-commerce features. At the same time, Alibaba’s Taobao buddied up with video streaming site Bilibili to boost commercialization of content-driven e-commerce.

Emma Lee is Shanghai-based tech writer, covering startups and tech happenings in China and Asia in general. We are looking for stories related to tech and China. Reach her at More by Emma Lee

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