What is a WeChat Mini Program?

First of all, we have a lot of unpacking to do, so if you don't know what WeChat is maybe go check out some of these articles:

That should be a good primer for our main focus, which is WeChat Mini Programs. WeChat Mini Programs are essentially apps within the app. These are apps that live inside of WeChat, only accessible from the mobile app. Released in early 2017, Mini Programs exploded in popularity in early 2018.

Examples
mobike WeChat mini program screenshot

MoBike's mini program allows users to find shared bikes around them

Zara ecommerce WeChat mini program screenshot

Zara's ecommerce mini program

Functionality

WeChat Mini Programs offer advanced functionality to users, including but not limited to: ecommerce, games, event management, content, etc. Basically anything you can do in a web app or web site, a Mini Program can do.

Native-like User Experience
Anything a web app can do? So, um, H5? Why would I choose a Mini Program over just an H5...

When Mini Programs were first released in 2017, skeptics often poked at the new technology as being no improvement from traditional h5 WeChat pages. There are, however, several things that distinguish Mini Programs from h5. So-called h5 is really just a normal website, plain and simple. Mini Programs, however, are a hybrid of a website and a native app. Part native, part web app. This creates a Fast, Native-like user experience right inside of WeChat. This speed and UX cannot be matched by a normal website being accessed inside of WeChat.

Development

WeChat mini programs are created using Javascript, HTML, and CSS. This is the same set of technology and programming languages developers use when creating websites. On top of these technologies, Tencent created a framework for building WeChat mini programs.

Terminology

In Chinese, Mini Programs are referred to as 微信小程序, wēi xìn xiǎo chéng xù. The term Mini Program is also used interexchangably with 'MP', 'Mini App', and 'WeApp'.