China's largest social network launches its own App Store

(Image Credit: iStockPhoto/c8501089)

WeChat dominates China's social networks, and it now wants to pull attention from Apple's app store in favour of its own. 

Tencent, parent company of WeChat, announced the 'Xiaochengxu' (translated as 'mini programs') feature yesterday. WeChat told Reuters the function “allows users to access merchants’ services without having to download their apps.” 

WeChat started as a chat app but has grown into a social platform based around its core instant messaging feature and offers similar functions to Facebook. Extending the experience with mini applications will help to further this push into becoming a full social network and enable users to spend more time within WeChat. 

According to Tencent, the initial response to Xiaochengxu has been positive with interest from various merchants including airlines, hotels, and travel agencies. It will be the quality of content which decides its success or failure. 

One user of Weibo, a microblogging service, wrote they "don't feel like it's of much use" and was hoping it would save memory on their device by allowing some full apps to be deleted. The reality was the WeChat app used most of the user's free space. 

With app stores such as the App Store and Play Store worth billions of dollars, they've become a key target for others to replicate. Chinese web giant Baidu launched a similar in-app downloading platform it called "Light App" in 2013. 

768 million active WeChat users – more than double the entire population of the United States – made over 100 million voice and video calls each day via the app in 2016, according to Tencent. 

Do you think 'mini programs' in apps like WeChat will be successful? Let us know in the comments.

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