Snap turns on Minis, bite-sized third-party apps in Snapchat

A set of mini apps has gone live on Snapchat platform, marking the beginning of a new chapter for the Los Angeles-headquartered firm as it aims to emulate aspects of the popular Chinese “super-app” model.

Unveiled last month, Snap Minis are lightweight, simplified versions of apps that live within Snap’s Chat section. These apps — built with HTML — are designed to improve engagement among users by enabling them to perform a range of additional tasks without leaving the Snap app.

Four of the seven “Minis” that Snap unveiled last month are now available across the platform. These mini apps that are going live today are: Meditation service Headspace, studying collaboration tool Flashcards, an “interactive messaging experience” service called Prediction Master and Let’s Do It, a mini app developed by Snap itself that allows users to make decisions with their friends.

Mini apps unveiled by Coachella that would allow users to plan festival trips, Atom’s movie ticketing and Saturn, which is aimed at helping students share and compare their class schedules, are yet to go live.

The rollout on Monday is nonetheless an important shift in Snap’s strategy to boost engagement on its ephemeral messaging app, which has amassed more than 229 million daily users.

Though a relatively new concept in the U.S. and U.K., the mini apps model is quite popular in Asian markets. Tencent’s WeChat has attracted over a million miniature apps that allow users to perform a range of tasks.

In India, mobile payments services PhonePe and Paytm have rolled out several such apps, too, that allow users to book flight and movie tickets and order food and cabs.

Snapchat has previously said that its relationship with Tencent, an investor in the Los Angeles firm, has been influential in its decision to replicate the super-app offering.

The strategy looks promising — at least on paper. It’s a win-win scenario for both Snap and the developers who make these mini apps. By gaining access to these mini apps, Snap can potentially see a boost in user engagement, and developers are able to cater to a whole set of new audience.

But whether this model finds a home with users in the U.S. and the U.K. and other markets where Snap has made inroads — and regions that unlike China are open — remains a mystery. As my colleague Lucas pointed out last month, Facebook has attempted to replicate the WeChat model through chatbots on Messenger over the years, to little success.