Mini Programs, It's Not Easy to Say 'Love You'

Mini Programs, It's Not Easy to Say 'Love You'


Tencent, one of China's largest and most profitable Internet companies, launched its WeChat mini program on January 9, which brought people not only excitement and curiosity, but also tons of questions and doubts. So what exactly is the "mini program"? How can people use it? Will mini programs replace standalone mobile apps? How much do users like it?

What are WeChat's "mini programs”?

In the words of Zhang Xiaolong, the founder of WeChat:

Mini programs are light apps, built within WeChat, offering a user experience similar to native iOS or Android apps. Mini programs remove virtually all of the friction and inconvenience of native apps. They also offer significant benefits to Chinese programmers in terms of reducing the resources and time needed for development.

How can the mini programs be used?

To start using WeChat mini programs, you'll first need to update to the latest version of WeChat (6.5.3).

Mini programs will appear in the "discover" tab of WeChat, though you'll need to access one first in order for the option to appear in your app.

You can also have a friend share a mini program with you in a chat to get the feature installed on your phone.

Once the mini programs' button appears on your discover tab, you can search to find your favorite brands.

For now, most of the third-party mini programs are in Chinese. Presumably more will be added (including English-language apps) as the function becomes more widely used.

When you search for a mini program, it will appear in your list of recently used ones.

Similar to chats, you can also pin a mini program to the top of your WeChat home screen. To do that, simply tap the dots in the top right corner of your screen within your mini program of choice and select "display on top."

Android users get the added bonus of being able to pin mini programs to their desktops. Enter into any mini program, tap on the dots in the upper right corner of the screen and select "add to desktop."

Will mini programs replace standalone mobile apps?

The answer is: it depends.

Mini-apps have several key benefits. They're cheaper than developing a standalone mobile app, since one version fits all - no more Android/iOS versions required for phones with different operating systems. They can also be shared across different platforms (e.g. in chat rooms), since each mini-app is technically a webpage in itself.

Furthermore, for brands or startups unsure about investing their otherwise limited resources into building an actual app, they can start with WeChat's mini program to get enough feedback or user data, before deciding to build an individual app if the need arises in the future.

However, not all kinds of apps can be replaced by mini programs.

The mini program is meant more for "lighter" apps, such as those for booking train tickets or hailing rides (such as through Didi). "Heavier" apps that require more stability, such as game, video, or music apps, will probably still require a more stable and smooth environment provided by developing a standalone platform. Since it really depends on the type of app one needs to create, it's unlikely that the WeChat mini program could replace all apps on the market.

How much do users like WeChat mini programs?

On the first day the mini program was carried out, 32.93 percent of netizens had a successful experience with it, while 55.89 percent said they are prepared to experience it, according to a questionnaire. From this you can see most people anticipate WeChat mini programs, and hope the mini programs can save their poor memories. However, after trying it out, quite a number of voices are complaining about mini programs and many netizens are even asking how to remove the program.

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