EXCLUSIVE: Alipay Said To Be Busy Developing Its Own “Mini Program” | TMTpost

Alipay is busy preparing its own development platform for third-party developers. Coincidently, Alibaba’s platform is also called “Mini Program” and its function is also very identical to WeChat’s. However, while WeChat attempts to attract more traffic to itself through offline channels, Alipay seems to focus more attention on distributing traffic to offline channels.

While WeChat is still busy promoting “Mini Program” to developers as well as offline stores, supermarkets and restaurants, Alipay also seems to be developing similar products to get a slice of the cake.

Recently, many internet insiders revealed to TMTpost that Alipay’s relevant personnel had been getting in touch with them and discussing issues about “Mini Programs”.

“Alipay got in touch with us roughtly at the beginning of this January. They have almost completed compiling developer document and invited us to participate in beta besting,” an O2O insider revealed to TMTpost.

In previous report Everything You Need To Know About WeChat’s New Cloud-Based App Platform “Mini Program”, I’ve unraveled the feeling of aspiration and uncertainty among WeChat “Mini Program”’s developers.

After hearing the news, TMTpost immediately contacted Alibaba and Ant Financial’s PR team for comment. However, while Alibaba’s PR team responded “No idea”, Ant Financial’s PR team hasn’t responded yet as of press time.

Based on what some insiders revealed to TMTpost, Alipay’s platform is also called “Mini Program”. Since “Program” is a generic term and the word “Mini” also is nothing special, it’s unlikely WeChat can apply for a trademark from China’s Trademark Office, a Trademark lawyer explained to TMTpost. In other words, any company can develop its own “Mini Program”. When we search on Trademark Office’s official website, we also find no trademark record of “Mini Program”. We don’t know if WeChat “Mini Program”’s team have ever thought about applying for a trademark, but they might, after all, feel a little unpleasant.

Screenshot of Developer Tools of Alipay’s “Mini Program”

However, it’s hardly a surprise. After all, it takes one year for WeChat to come up with the idea and then officially launch “Mini Program”, but over 200,000 developers have already signed up on WeChat “Mini Program”’s platform.

After WeChat officially launched “Mini Program”, a couple thousand “Mini Programs” have already been available. More importantly, “Mini Program” might contain huge potential via “Scan QR code” function offline. WeChat aims to “connect offline and online” through “Mini Program”, while Alipay aims to do the same thing.

Although WeChat refuses to develop an “App Store” for “Mini Programs”, lots of third-party platforms have already launched their own “Mini Program App Stores”.

Therefore, it’s natural that Alipay, which also possesses various offline user scenarios, can promote its own “Mini Program”. However, Alipay doesn’t have a user base as large as WeChat, so it plans to promote its own “Mini Program” through the following three aspects:

1. A more open developer system?

Based on the screenshot of Developer Tools of Alipay’s “Little Program”, Alipay “Mini Program” actually belongs to Alibaba’s subsidiary Ant Financial. Although the development system is completely new and enclosed, it still adopts traditional front-end development technology.

Screenshot of Developer Tools of Alipay’s “Little Program”

While WeChat specially carried out Developer Tools for “Mini Program”’s tools, Alipay hasn’t provided developers with special Developers Tools. Its development framework still adopts Html+jsAPI, and in the user end, users can get access to “Mini Programs” by scanning the QR code. While WeChat requires developers to limit their “Mini Programs” to five pages and their document to less than 1MB, Alipay might allow developers to develop their “Mini Programs” with their own text editors.

On the surface, Alipay seems to give more freedom to its “Mini Programs”’s developers and allow them to include more functions. In fact, however, it’s likely Alipay is just in a hurry and fails to impose limit to developers yet.

“Alipay ‘Mini Program’’s team might be still trying to figure out what they really want to do,” some insiders who’ve be contacted by relevant personnel all mentioned to TMTpost, “Last December, Alipay is still wondering if they would support ‘Mini Program’ for games.”

Since WeChat is quite high-profile about its “Mini Program” project, Alipay may be under huge pressure to launch its own “Mini Program”. However, Alipay just came nothing with its “Life Circle”, so it won’t dare to be in too much a hurry. Therefore, we might still have to wait a long time before Alipay’s “Little Program” will be officially launched.

2. Maximizing its function as a “tool”

“After rounds of communication, we find that the biggest difference between Alipay and WeChat’s ‘Mini Program’ is that Alipay will include traffic distribution,” an insider who’ve contacted with Alipay “Mini Program”’s developers told TMTpost.

To do so, Alipay might include an App Store-like platform for “Mini Programs”, but Alipay is still pondering over details.

However, an insider revealed to TMTpost that Alipay certainly won’t provide a standard “App Store” for “Mini Programs”, since it might interfere with interests of iOS and Android’s App Stores.

After all, there are lots of ways to distribute traffic. For example, Alipay can add come channels to Alipay APP or recommend “Mini Programs” to users based on their credit history and user habit of Alipay. Even if Alipay don’t carry out a special App Store, the actual effect will be the same.

To some degree, this better matches Alipay’s positioning. Compared to WeChat, Alipay is more like a tool, so “Mini Programs” might be able to maximize its functions by clicking and switching.

It is likely that Alipay will become more like a collection of tools and tools targeting various other user scenarios, functions and services can be included in Alipay. While WeChat supports various types “Mini Programs”, Alipay might be more focused, which might help it better compete with WeChat.

3. A battle between Alipay and WeChat Wallet might ensue offline

For Alipay, it has to focus more attention on offline since it fails to become as successful as WeChat online. Since Alibaba already has its own online take-away booking platform Koubei, shopping malls such as Intime Mall, as well as platforms and companies that it has already invested in such as Suning, Ele, Yiguo, Alipay must have been very familiar with offline user scenarios.

“Alipay is full aware of the value of offline channels. While Alipay’s ‘Mini Program’ aims to distribute traffic to others, WeChat attempts to bring more traffic to itself through offline channels,” a developer concluded.

Although Alipay fails to outperform WeChat Wallet during the “Red Envelop Battle” last Spring Festival, it is in the leading position in the offline payment scenarios, such as restaurants, supermarkets, hotels and even overseas tourist destinations. According to Analysis International’s report of the Chinese third-party mobile payment market in Q2, Alipay takes the lead with a market share of 55.4 per cent, Tencent ranks the second with its WeChat Payment and QQ Wallet, accounting for a market share of 32.1 per cent. However, based on an annual prediction report, we find that WeChat’s market share might surpass WeChat in 2017.

It is obvious that offline scenarios will become a battleground for mobile payment. Once Alipay’s “Mini Program” is officially launched, competition between Alipay and WeChat Wallet will also spread to offline scenarios.

Imagine Alipay’s determination to uphold its leading position in the offline mobile payment market.

“Alipay’s ability to promote itself (such as setting up QR code) is better than WeChat. While Alipay promotes mobile payment with its own team, WeChat relies more on service providers,” an insider in the catering industry told TMTpost.

Besides, Alipay is better in encouraging shop owners to support mobile payment. Although both WeChat and Alipay charge shop owners with a certain amount of platform fee, Alipay will provide shop owners with lots of discounts, which will make them more willing to embrace mobile payment platforms.

During our research, we find that while Tencent and companies related to Tencent don’t know much about Alipay’s “Mini Program”, Alibaba and companies relate to Alibaba seem to resist WeChat “Mini Program”. Therefore, it is likely that Alipay’s “Mini Program” will “force” developers to line up, and companies related to Tencent might not be invited to develop Alipay’s “Mini Programs”.

In a word, it is foreseeable that once Alipay’s “Little Program” is officially launched, a battle over the offline mobile payment market between Chinese mobile payment giants will ensue. At that time, rules in the developer-end, as well as understanding of and ability to dig offline scenarios will determine which platform stand out at last. After all, both Tencent and Alibaba have just taken the first step in realizing their dream to “connect everything”.


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[The article is published and edited with authorization from the author @Su Jianxun, please note source and hyperlink when reproduce.]

Translated by Levin Feng (Senior Translator at PAGE TO PAGE), working for TMTpost.

(Chinese Version)

Originally published at www.tmtpost.com on January 13, 2017.

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