Mini Program can save handset storage space but can’t turn WeChat into an all-in-one app

By Zhang Ye Source:Global Times Published: 2017/1/9 22:18:40

A new feature of Tencent Holdings' instant messaging app WeChat, called "Mini Program," created a buzz on China's social networks on the day of its official debut. Starting from Monday morning, selected developers could release so-called lightweight applications within WeChat itself, allowing WeChat users to search mobile services without having to download a separate app for each one of them on smartphones.

According to media outlets' estimates, 148 mini programs have gone online, covering services such as car-hailing developed by Didi Chuxing, food delivery offered by Meituan, Inc's online shopping, and film ticket bookings run by Maoyan.

The PR refused to give details on the performance of the new features when contacted by the Global Times on Monday.

Some Web users applauded to the release.

A Beijing-based female WeChat user surnamed Li, 25, was one of them. She owns a 16GB Apple iPhone 6 and is frequently bothered by the system notification telling her that the phone does not have enough space.

"With mini programs, I can delete those that have not been frequently used but still can be useful sometimes, saving lots of storage space for the operation of large-scale mobile games, images and videos," Li told the Global Times.

A press release sent by Chinese business-to-consumer online travel agent Lvmama Tourism to the Global Times on Monday said that the operation of its Mini Program within WeChat only takes up 1 MB of a smartphone, while its latest app version on the iOS platform needs 55 MB.

There are also some who see this move as having little interest. "I have enough storage space. Besides, Alipay and Taobao, which I frequently use, are not included," a Web user told the Global Times on Monday on condition of anonymity.

Mini Program cannot make WeChat into an all-in-one app yet, as Tencent's arch rivals - Alibaba Group Holding and Baidu Inc - would unlikely put its services into WeChat's Mini Program, Ma Jihua, a telecom analyst with Beijing Daojing Consultant Co, told the Global Times.

Still, the move aroused concerns on the Internet that WeChat's new feature would erode some market shares of app distributors like Apple Store in China, even though Zhang Xiaolong, known as the father of WeChat, has emphasized at a conference in late December that Mini Program is not a mobile app distributing function, requiring users to find services on their own by searching or scanning a quick-response code.

Launched in 2011, WeChat has evolved to include services such as car-hailing, food deliveries, e-commerce and utility payments from just an instant messaging app.

"The new feature is just something WeChat expected to rely on to enhance its competitiveness and user loyalty amid the online-to-offline battleground," said Ma.

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