Click on a link in China’s top messaging app, WeChat, and you’ll be taken to a rich app-like experience, but without needing to download or install anything.
Tencent, WeChat’s maker, on Monday released “mini programs” (Apple wouldn’t allow the word “app” to be used, it seems.)
The new mini programs work within the messaging app, and the early crop at launch include a Prisma-like photo editing app, a Pomodoro Timer productivity app, a flight search engine, and one for recipe searches.
WeChat could become the biggest app store in China
With the mini programs, the already-dominant WeChat continues its march to become practically ubiquitous on Chinese handsets, where people already use the messenger for real-life tasks like paying at restaurants, to hailing a Didi Chuxing ride.
WeChat establishing its own app store is especially effective in China, where the international version of the Google Play Store on Android devices is blocked. With most people hopping across various third party Android stores, WeChat has the opportunity to pull a broad swathe of users to its one store.
In effect, WeChat could possibly become the largest distributor of apps in China.
Android is going instant too
It’s somewhat similar to Google’s Instant Apps that was unveiled at the I/O conference in May last year.
Google hasn’t launched the feature yet.
In Tencent’s annual data report published last year, the company found that nearly half of WeChat’s users use the app for more than 90 minutes each day.