Quick-hit video apps like Triller and Byte could be big winners if the U.S. Government takes action against TikTok
TikTok could be on its way out in the U.S. — and that could be a boon to several of its competitors.
The app, owned by Beijing-based Bytedance, has about 80 million users in the United States, and 80% of those users are between the ages of 18-34. It’s wildly popular, especially among Millennials and Gen Z’ers. But policymakers have grown increasingly concerned over TikTok’s close ties China, worrying its data collection could become a national security threat if the company shares user information with China’s communist regime. (There have already been signs TikTok looks to appease the Chinese government, including censoring videos that mention the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.)
Now, there is real momentum behind a potential ban. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo earlier this month said the government was “looking into” banning the app, and on Monday, the House of Representatives voted to disallow government devices from downloading TikTok. The Senate looks like it’ll be doing the same. While this doesn’t mean the U.S. government is on the verge of completely banning the app for all Americans, it’s certainly within the realm of possibility. TikTok is acting like a company that’s feeling the heat, with major investors looking at spinning TikTok off to American investors in the hopes it’ll satiate regulators.
If TikTok were to be scrubbed, here are four apps that would have the best chance of capitalizing on its exile:
This could be the app that best resembles TikTok. Launched earlier this year by Vine co-founder Dom Hoffman, Byte allows users to create 16-second looping videos — similar to how Vine looped videos that maxed out at 6 seconds long. It’s also similar to TikTok, which famously specializes in 15 second clips (although users can stitch TikTok clips together for a total of 60 seconds). The links go deeper than that, though.
Users are hit with a steady stream of comedy skits and videos set to music when they open Byte, and more often than not, the creators look to be under the age of 20. You’d be hard pressed to spot the difference between Byte and TikTok based on those factors alone. On top of that, Byte allows users to like and comment on videos, as well as search for videos based on keywords and popular hashtags — leaning on features that have worked for several social apps, including TikTok.
Byte didn’t get off to a blockbuster start after launching in January, but it has picked up steam in the last few weeks. From July 1 to July 21, the app was downloaded 1.7 million times — which was more than the 1.6 million downloads it had from February until the end of June, according to Sensor Tower. It’s single-best day record of 422,000 downloads came on July 9, per Sensor Tower, which came on the heels of Pompeo’s statement TikTok could be potentially banned. The recent surge in downloads indicates many TikTok users are already looking at Byte as a potential landing spot.
Here’s one app we already know has benefited from TikTok’s troubles. Triller co-owner Ryan Kavanaugh recently said the app — which allows users to splice together short video clips with licensed songs from its massive library — was downloaded 40 million times in India immediately after the Indian government banned citizens from using TikTok and other Chinese apps.
Triller has plenty of ammo behind it. The app features a number of celebrities and music stars making videos, including Mike Tyson, DJ Khaled, Dillon Francis. It also raised between $10-20 million in late 2019, with investments from Kendrick Lamar and Jake Paul, among others.
If TokTok were to get the boot, Triller could be a natural landing spot for many of its users. The app lets users create and edit quick-hit videos, while also offering filters and banners that remind users of Snapchat and Instagram; Triller is featuring a “Black Lives Matter” banner for users to add to their videos right now, for example.
Snapchat may not mirror the TikTok experience in the same way Triller and Byte do, but it does share one key similarity: it’s remarkably popular with young people. As TheWrap reported last month, Snapchat boasts that 90% of 13-to-24-year-olds in the U.S. use the app. Third-party data shared from eMarketer also found 52% of the app’s 238 million users are under the age of 25. A TikTok ban doesn’t necessarily mean Snapchat will see a noticable influx of new users, considering there is plenty of overlap already. But it does mean those users will have more time to spend on Snapchat each day — something that allows Snap to hit them with more ads and drive more revenue.
The wild card in the bunch. It’s not that Instagram is an upstart in need of an audience — it already has more than 1 billion monthly users — but like Snapchat, it would benefit from having users spend more time on the app than they already do.
And Instagram may be specially primed to win over TikTok users, considering the app is set for a wide rollout of Reels, its new feature that shares a number of characteristics with TikTok. Most notably, users are able to create and share 15-second clips that feature a wide range of music. Reels users are also free to lift and edit audio from other videos. Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, will highlight viral clips in a “Featured Reels” section on the app’s Explore section.
The feature first launched in Brazil last November, allowing users to share their clips either to their Stories or directly send them to friends. Now, Reels is expected to launch in the U.S. and about 50 other countries next month.
Reels has a lot going for it. The feature is built into Instagram already, allowing users who have heard about TikTok, but never got around to trying it, to check it out without much friction. But it can also offer former TikTok users a semblance of what they’re already used to — namely, 15-second clips set to music — while also providing a huge platform that can funnel followers back to their videos. By showcasing clips in its “Featured Reels” section, Instagram can help creators grow their audience. That’s critical not only for kids looking for more followers, but also for creators. More followers translates to more clout and a better chance of monetizing your content.
Instagram has already shown it can copy its competitors and thrive, too. Just look at how it lifted Stories from Snapchat — and proceeded to add hundreds of millions of users afterwards. Skeptics can point to how Facebook just shuttered Lasso, which was its own TikTok copycat app. But Instagram doesn’t come with the same baggage as Facebook, and most people don’t even know the two companies are connected; only 29% of Americans polled last year knew Facebook owned Instagram. If Instagram can pull off a reasonable facsimile of TikTok with Reels, it could turn out to be just as big of a coup as its move to copy Stories from Snapchat.