Before we talk about Mini Programs, you need to know where they come from. We don’t have to look far—the company behind this project is Tencent, the Chinese internet giant whose main focus is mobile applications (aka apps), most famously WeChat. If you’ve been in China for more than a day, you know about WeChat. In short, it’s a chat app that has reached nearly 850 million monthly users.
This article, however, is not about the specificities of WeChat, so let's get straight to the point: the Mini Program. It’s a new project Tencent launched in January 2017.
What Is a Mini Program?
Mini Programs are small applications within WeChat—technically more basic than the “real” applications that we typically download.
When you use Mini Programs, you’ll see that they function like apps. (Tencent calls them Mini Programs because Apple will not let the company use the term “app.” But we still use the term “Mini App” when talking about these programs.)
Mini Programs are not available in any kind of app store, so if you want to find a Mini Program, you will have to search for it on WeChat or scan a QR code from a street advertisement.
What Are The Advantages Of Mini Programs?
Mini Programs are very light, and there is no need to download them to your phone. You can access them anywhere, anytime, and if you no longer want one of your Mini Programs, all you have to do is delete it from WeChat. It’s as simple as deleting a message.
This new concept will also help companies trying to build their own apps. As you may know, Google Play is blocked in China, so building a WeChat Mini Program is a way to get around that obstacle.
What Are The Limitations Of Mini Programs?
Here’s what we’ve found so far:
- Right now, the available Mini Programs are mainly in Chinese.
- They are quite basic.
- They cannot be developed as mobile gaming apps.
In addition, users and official accounts cannot share Mini Programs on WeChat Moments, the app’s social networking feature; the sharing function is limited to group and individual chats.
What Is The Difference Between Mini Programs And Official Accounts?
The main difference between the two is that users subscribe to an official account to receive news and info from that company, meaning there is an ongoing relationship between an official account and its followers. Mini Programs do not foster this same relationship, as users just scan a QR code one time in order to use the program.
What Is The Difference Between Mini Programs And Mobile Apps?
As already mentioned, there is no need to download the Mini Programs to your phone, and you won’t find them in an app store. There’s also a difference in the cost of development—the cost to develop a Mini Program is only about 20% of the cost to develop a native app.
What Does The Future Look Like For Mini Programs?
Mini Programs have the advantage of simplicity—low development cost, easy to add and delete—but that means they’re also pretty basic. If WeChat developers can make them more complex, WeChat could extend their dominance in this market. Mini Programs would become part of life for every developer and every WeChat user, competing with traditional apps and stealing customers away from traditional app stores.
What Are The Most Popular Mini Programs?
Right now the most downloaded Mini Programs are:
- Hangzhou Plus - HZPlus
- McDonald’s Discount Coupons - 麦当劳优惠券
- Tencent Surveys - 腾讯投票
- Mobike - 摩拜单车
- Sleepy Sounds - 小睡眠
Scan this QR code to try the Sleepy Sounds Mini Program:
What Is The Latest For Mini Programs?
The last information we get about these Mini Programs is that it seems they have lost interest after a few week of availability. Can we see as a real indicator of the unpopularity of them? Nobody can be sure at the moment so let’s see what the future can offer us.
If you have any questions about Mini Programs or you’re interested in creating your own app, do not hesitate to contact us.