App Store beware: Tencent invites developers to develop in-WeChat apps

WeChat, the most popular social networking app in China – and one of Tencent’s main weapons – on Wednesday invited 200 developers to develop in-WeChat app-like “basic programs”, in an effort to move towards becoming a service platform.

Developers can develop private beta programs to offer services for their followers within WeChat; these programs can be considered as lightweight apps.

Allen Zhang, the founder of WeChat, revealed WeChat’s plan of app accounts in January. He said then that WeChat users can simply follow an app account on WeChat, which basically will replace the function of an app.

Allen Zhang, the founder of WeChat. Photo from Baidu Images.
Allen Zhang, the founder of WeChat. Photo from Baidu Images.

The invitation from WeChat said that “WeChat is more open, allowing developers to create a basic program in a short period. A basic program can be easily acquired and spread within WeChat, while at the same time providing an outstanding user experience”.

So far WeChat has three categories of official accounts:

1.Service Accounts, which connect users with merchandise, and are owned by e-commerce companies,

2.Subscription Accounts, which provide information to their subscribers.

3.Enterprise Accounts, which facilitate internal office automation operations.

The “basic programs” will be a new fourth category, existing in parallel with the preceding three categories.

Tencent claimed to have 20 million enterprise accounts, according to a Q2 2016 report from Tencent.

Over its five-year evolution, WeChat has become a super app. On top of chatting, it has added a plethora of extra functions, including online publishing, online shopping, and online payment. WeChat has 806 million monthly active users, according to a Q2 2016 report from Tencent.

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