Telegram, the popular messenger with 800 million monthly active users worldwide, is moving towards adopting an ecosystem strategy similar to WeChat’s super app approach. The platform aims to allow third-party developers to build mini apps that can interact with users directly within Telegram. This super app platform relies on partnerships with infrastructure partners, including the TON Foundation and Tencent Cloud. Tencent, the owner of WeChat, has partnered with TON Foundation to support and expand services for TON’s high compute intensity and network bandwidth needs.
WeChat, which pioneered the mini app model in China, powers millions of mini apps that serve various functions such as payments, food delivery, e-commerce, and ride-hailing. Telegram’s mini app ecosystem, with the help of its decentralized payments network, has the potential to reach a broader spectrum of users worldwide. While Tencent Cloud won’t be TON’s exclusive cloud provider, there are potential synergies between the partners. Developers from WeChat who currently use Tencent’s cloud services may begin building on TON due to the similarities between WeChat and Telegram mini apps.
However, there are challenges for developers looking to build mini apps for Telegram’s international community. They need to familiarize themselves with Telegram since it is blocked in China. Additionally, they must learn the programming languages of blockchain apps, although this might be easier to overcome than understanding the economic incentives of decentralized applications. A partnership with Tencent could offer insights into enticing users to utilize a messenger for various purposes, particularly regarding payment functionality. While WeChat’s in-house payments system is the default option and generates significant revenue for Tencent, Telegram has integrated with multiple payment solutions and takes no commission. The recent addition of a self-custodial wallet developed by The Open Platform using the TON blockchain enables a wide range of transaction scenarios in regions without centralized online payments.
Ultimately, it will be interesting to observe the lessons Telegram and TON learn from WeChat as they develop their mini app platform with a decentralized twist.