WeChat launched its highly anticipated mini app feature this week.
The brand new function, known as 'Mini Program,' essentially allows you to access light apps within WeChat without having to download or install brand new apps.
The new feature is part of Tencent's strategy to commercialize the insanely popular messaging platform. According to Tencent's 2016 Q3 reports, the app now has more than 846 million users worldwide.
How to use WeChat Mini Programs
To start using WeChat Mini Programs, you'll first need to update to the latest version of WeChat (6.5.3).
Mini Programs will appear in the "Discover" tab of WeChat, though you'll need to access one first in order for the option to appear in your app.
We did a search for popular bike-sharing app Mobike in Chinese (摩拜单车, Mobaidanche) and were able to open Mini Programs from there.
The Mobike Mini Program looks nearly identical to the regular app:
You can also have a friend share a Mini Program with you in a chat to get the feature installed on your phone.
Once the Mini Programs button appears on your Discover tab, you can search to find your favorite brands.
For now, most of the third-party Mini Programs are in Chinese. Presumably more will be added (including English-language apps) as the function becomes more widely used.
When you search for a Mini Program, it will appear in your list of recently used ones.
Among some of the early adopters of the Mini Programs include the aforementioned Mobike, Ctrip for travel bookings (携程, Xiecheng), JD.com for online shopping (京东购物, Jingdong Gouwu), Didi Chuxing for ordering cabs (滴滴出行, Didi chuxing), Didi's Bus Search Function (滴滴公交查询, Didi gongjiao chaxun), Meituan Food Delivery (美团生活, Meituan Shenghuo), XCurrency for finding out exchange rates (极简汇率, Jijian huilü) and McDonald's Coupons (麦当劳优惠券, Maidanglao Youhuichun).
Similar to chats, you can also pin a Mini Program to the top of your WeChat homescreen. To do that, simply tap the dots in the top right corner of your screen within your Mini Program of choice and select "Display on Top."
Finally, Android users get the added bonus of being able to pin Mini Programs to their desktops. Enter into any Mini Program, tap on the dots in upper right corner of the screen and select "Add to Desktop."
[Top image via Wumeiti]