Ep. 37: The WeChat Mini Program — The End of Apps or Not?


In episode 37 of TechBuzz China, co-hosts Ying-Ying Lu and Rui Ma dive into the world of WeChat Mini Programs. Arguably some of the biggest innovations to come out of the Chinese internet, Mini Programs have no real Western equivalent. Ever since it was launched three years ago on January 9, 2016, the Mini Programs function, which is still in an experimental stage, has been touted as a key direction for WeChat.

Rui and Ying-Ying begin by exploring the origin story of Mini Programs. They explain that, back in 2016, it was not immediately clear to the WeChat team what to do with the product after its launch. WeChat was observing that while the Official Accounts system was taking off, the main issue was that these accounts were not built to properly handle transactions. So Allen Zhang and his team began to ask themselves if there was something heavier than an Official Account but lighter than a native app that they could make to help businesses transact online, inside of WeChat. The goal was to create something “small and light, fast and beautiful.”

Listen to find out: Did the team succeed at building the above mantra into the evolving product of Mini Programs? In what ways are mini programs superior to native apps? For users, what are the various means in which individuals can access the programs within WeChat? From a small-business owner point of view, what are the benefits of launching a mini program? What about the drawbacks? What are mini games and how do they fit into the picture? What about AI — what is its role in all of this? And, finally, which other Chinese internet giants are getting into micro apps, and do our co-hosts believe their efforts will lead to the success that WeChat Mini Programs are experiencing?

As always, you can find these stories and more at pandaily.com. Do let us know what you think of the show by leaving us an iTunes review, liking our Facebook page, and tweeting at us at @techbuzzchina to win some swag! Thanks also to our listeners over at our partner, dealstreetasia.com.

Episode 37 is our final one before the Pandaily team takes off for Chinese New Year. We’ll be back in two weeks, likely kicking off with a fresh look at the New Year’s red packet feud between Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent (BAT). Happy Year of the Pig!