Super-app

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A super-app (also written as super app or superapp) is a mobile or web application that can provide multiple services including payment and financial transaction processing, effectively becoming an all-encompassing self-contained commerce and communication online platform that embraces many aspects of personal and commercial life. Notable examples of super-apps include Tencent's WeChat in China, and Grab in Southeast Asia.[1][2][3]

History[edit]

The super-app term was first used to describe WeChat, a ubiquitous application used by 1.2 billion people, mostly from China. Recognition of WeChat as a super-app stems from its combination of messaging, payments, e-commerce, and much more within a single application, making it indispensable for many users. WeChat's establishment of the super-app model have led companies like Meta (formerly Facebook) to try and build similar applications outside of China.[4][5]

In India, Tata Group has announced that it is currently developing a super app named TataNeu.[6][7][8] Major Indian companies like Paytm, PhonePe, and ITC Maars also have apps in development that might constitute super-apps.[9]

In Southeast Asia, Grab and Gojek lay claim to the super-app classification despite lacking many of the features offered by WeChat. Accordingly, growth-stage companies like Shopee, Traveloka, and AirAsia have also expanded the range of services offered by their respective applications.[3]

In 2022 Elon Musk expressed interest in creating a super-app under the name "X".[10]

Notable examples[edit]

Alipay[edit]

Alipay is a third-party mobile and online payment platform established in Hangzhou, China in February 2004 by Alibaba Group and its founder Jack Ma. It operates in association with Ant Group, an affiliate company of the Chinese Alibaba Group.[11][12]

Gojek[edit]

Gojek is an Indonesian on-demand multi-service digital platform and fintech payment super-app. Established in Jakarta in 2010, as a call center to connect consumers to courier delivery and two-wheeled ride-hailing services, it launched its mobile app in 2015 with four services: GoRide, GoSend, GoShop, and GoFood, which has since expanded to offer over 20 services. In 2021, it merged with another Indonesian unicorn, Tokopedia, forming decacorn GoTo Gojek Tokopedia.[13]

Grab[edit]

Grab is a Southeast Asian technology company headquartered in Singapore and Indonesia. Founded in 2012 as the MyTeksi app in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, it expanded the following year as GrabTaxi, before moving its headquarters to Singapore in 2014 and rebranded officially as Grab. In addition to ride-hailing and transportation services, the company's mobile app also offers food delivery and digital payments services.[14]

WeChat[edit]

WeChat is a Chinese multi-purpose instant messaging, social media and mobile payment app. First released in 2011, it became the world's largest standalone mobile app in 2018, with over 1 billion monthly active users. WeChat provides text messaging, hold-to-talk voice messaging, broadcast (one-to-many) messaging, video conferencing, video games, sharing of photographs and videos and location sharing.[2]

Criticism[edit]

Although apps that fit the super-app classification can offer users a wider variety of services in comparison to single-purpose alternatives, internet regulators in regions such as the US and Europe have become more concerned about the overall power of the technology industry and have become more critical of companies developing such apps. In China, WeChat and other local firms have been ordered to open up their platforms to rivals by local regulators.[15]

There are also reports that suggest it might be difficult to replicate WeChat's super-app model. This stems partly from the peaking of smartphone penetration rates in many regions worldwide, which have led to overcrowded app stores and tighter restrictions on targeted advertising as regulators assert more control over the companies. From a technical viewpoint, single-purpose apps are comparatively faster, more responsive and easier to navigate than super-apps, which help improve the overall user experience.[16] Super-apps are also likelier to store larger amounts of personal data to facilitate the delivery of their services, and users run a greater risk of becoming victims of severe data breaches. In 2020, this unfolded with Tokopedia, when data of 91 million users was stolen and shared by hackers.[3]

It has also been noted that a user that loses access to their account or is banned from a super-app generally loses access to multiple real-life services and digital applications.[17]

In October 2022 the South Korean super app KakaoTalk suffered an outage for a few days following a fire at a datacenter causing an economic slowdown due to its use in the overall Korean economy.[18]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "What is a super app, and why haven't they gone global?". CNBC. 2021-07-16. Retrieved 2021-08-24.
  2. ^ a b "The race to create the world's next super-app". BBC News. 2021-02-05. Retrieved 2021-08-24.
  3. ^ a b c "Southeast Asian platforms seek 'super app' label to emulate Grab and Gojek". KrASIA. 2022-01-28. Retrieved 2022-02-07.
  4. ^ Rodenbaugh, Ryan (26 October 2020). "Breaking down WhatsApp's and Facebook's super-app ambitions". Tech in Asia. Retrieved 24 August 2021.
  5. ^ Levy, Adam (2020-01-31). "Facebook's Super-App Strategy Is Paying Off". The Motley Fool. Retrieved 2021-08-24.
  6. ^ Mundhra, Laxitha (2021-09-30). "Tata Digital's Super App To Be Called 'TataNeu', Launch Set For Early 2022". Inc42 Media. Retrieved 2021-12-06.
  7. ^ Zachariah, Reeba (29 September 2021). "Tatas' super app called TataNeu". The Times of India. Retrieved 2021-12-06.
  8. ^ "The Tata super app now has a name". The Economic Times. Retrieved 2022-02-07.
  9. ^ "ITC to launch super app this year to tap small farmers' potential: Chairman". 11 August 2021.
  10. ^ "Elon Musk, Twitter and the mysterious X app". BBC News. 2022-10-05. Retrieved 2022-10-28.
  11. ^ Li, Jiaxing (13 September 2021). "Chinese regulators break up Alipay, split off loan business". kr-asia.com. Retrieved 14 July 2022.
  12. ^ Yang, Yingzhi; Goh, Brenda (21 June 2022). "Factbox: Alibaba and Ant's ties are starting to fray under China's glare". reuters.com. Reuters. Retrieved 14 July 2022.
  13. ^ Tani, Shotaro (2 June 2022). "Indonesia holds key to GoTo's 'aggressive' IPO valuation". asia.nikkei.com. Nikkei, Inc. Retrieved 14 July 2022.
  14. ^ Vaswani, Karishma (3 May 2021). "Grab: How an Uber killer became a powerful Asian super-app". bbc.com. BBC. Retrieved 14 July 2022.
  15. ^ Heath, Alex (2021-11-01). "Rise of the super app". The Verge. Retrieved 2022-02-07.
  16. ^ "Commentary: The real reason most super apps are not super great". CNA. Retrieved 2022-02-07.
  17. ^ "The dark side of a super app like WeChat". MIT Technology Review. Retrieved 2022-10-28.
  18. ^ Che, Chang; Young, Jin Yu (2022-10-19). "South Korean Super App Goes Down, Putting a Halt on Life". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-10-28.