Three years ago, Tencent’s top executives flew to Cupertino, California, for a meeting with Apple CEO Tim Cook. Their mission: mollify Apple executives worried that a new feature in Tencent’s WeChat, China’s top social-networking app, could upend the multibillion-dollar app ecosystem.
The feature, called mini programs, would allow users to play casual games, hail taxis and make purchases without ever leaving the WeChat app. Instead, users would access a mini program from within WeChat, similar to opening a website in a browser, without needing to download another app. Soon after, Apple began delaying software updates to WeChat on iPhones, creating tensions between the two companies.