Baidu strengthens ‘super app’ foothold with 100 million monthly active mini-program users

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 September, 2018, 7:01am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 September, 2018, 2:04pm

Baidu, China’s largest search engine operator and artificial intelligence "national champion", said its mini-programs have amassed 100 million monthly active users since being introduced two months ago.

Ping Xiaoli, head of the company’s app and news feed business, made the claim at a media briefing earlier this week, the transcript of which was verified by a Baidu spokeswoman on Thursday.

The Nasdaq-listed company first announced the launch of mini-programs at its AI developer conference in July, with a full roll-out expected by the end of the year.

Mini-programs refer to applications typically smaller than 10 megabytes that can run instantly on the main app’s interface. They offer faster access speeds for users because the program does not have to be downloaded from an app store, rather they run from within the app.

“Mini-programs are a strategic product, based on the open platform of the Baidu app,” Ping said at the media event this week. “Through it, developers can provide a more seamless experience to users.”

Baidu follows Tencent’s lead in building ‘super app’ ecosystem with new service

The move comes amid efforts by Chinese internet giants to build “super app” platforms, similar to WeChat operated by Tencent Holdings, that can host multiple services and deliver greater convenience to consumers in the world’s largest smartphone market.

As an example, Ping highlighted the mini-program that can track typhoons, such as the powerful storm Mangkhut which hit southern China and Hong Kong earlier this month. “Weather sensitive users could save it to their list for later visits,” she said.

Baidu mini-programs cover more than 100 so-called scenarios – or situations in which an app can be used – and developers are now being invited to develop programs for use on the company’s main app.

In a conference call in August, Baidu chairman and chief executive Robin Li Yanhong said the Beijing-based company was “gaining share” against most super apps after it posted a quarterly profit that topped analyst estimates.

Tencent’s WeChat is now host to 1 million mini-programs

Shenzhen-based Tencent already offers more than one million mini-programs on its WeChat service, which has become China’s ubiquitous, do-everything platform for messaging, social networking, e-commerce and mobile payments, with more than 1 billion users. WeChat introduced a simple platform-jumping game in late December that garnered 100 million users in two weeks and inspired a raft of copycats.

Alibaba Group Holding, parent company of the South China Morning Post, and Facebook have also been driving mini-program initiatives with their products.

China is home to the world’s biggest online community, with its 802 million internet users equal to the populations of the US, Indonesia and Brazil combined, according to an August report issued by state agency China Internet Network Information Centre.