(ECNS) -- China's popular mobile social media platform WeChat has started allowing those with official accounts to easily integrate a mini-program that insiders said could increase its competitive advantage over Apple's iOS ecosystem, 21st Century Business Herald reported.
Apple released a new rule on April 19, which banned developers from including "like" buttons or links that direct customers to purchasing systems outside of its iOS ecosystem.
To comply with this new rule, Tencent recently shut down a tipping feature on WeChat. The function is unaffected on WeChat's Android version.
However, days after the move, WeChat announced that it had enabled official accounts to employ a mini-program to link content with a potential purchase page.
The newly added feature by WeChat means users of the iPhone WeChat version could still make payments without using Apple's in-app payment system when they interact with official accounts.
Such mini-programs, lightweight apps within WeChat, are as simple to download as bots, yet offer more app-like features to potentially keep users engaged.
Less than 100 days after its introduction in January, WeChat mini-programs are now used by an increasing number of companies to facilitate online deals, including McDonald's, Starbucks and the bike-sharing startup Mobike.
There were more than 12 million official WeChat accounts in 2016 run by individuals, corporations and government agencies used to disseminate news and updates to users.
As WeChat becomes an increasingly popular mobile payment method, the other market leader, Alipay from Alibaba, has rolled out new ways to cooperate with three million brick-and-mortar stores to better integrate online and offline business activities.
Qian Hao, an Internet analyst, said WeChat mini-programs are now drawing more attention from developers and businesses as they provide more captive user experiences.
Hu Renjie, vice general manager of WeChat Open Platform, said mini-programs will further lower the threshold for developers, boost products and enrich the application.