The TikTok Copycat Apps Have Arrived
Will any of these TikTok clones be a worthy challenger?
During COVID, TikTok has become a breakout star, surpassing 2 billion downloads thanks to hashtag challenges and viral dances. YPulse found that the app has grown far more than established social players during the pandemic: in February 25% of 13-18-year-olds were using the app daily, as of April 2020 40% are. The New York Times has called the app “an outlet for expression unlike anything that came before”—and their user numbers continue to climb. And now, the TikTok clones are here.
We’ve seen it all happen before—in the wake of a new app’s success (and TikTok’s has been monstrous), competing newbies, twinning features on established apps, and smart riffs on a similar format emerge to try to ride coattails or steal audience share. Snapchat inspired a wave of carbon copy tools and platforms—changing the social media landscape with the Story format takeover. Now, it’s TikTok’s turn. Here are four TikTok copycats to keep an eye on—along with some predictions of which will be a success:
Zynn is focused on short-form video, allowing users to create, edit, and share 15-second clips using a “massive music library, cool stickers and funny effects.” Sound familiar? The Verge reports that Zynn, which launched at the beginning of May, is almost a “button-for-button clone” of TikTok—but it pays users to sign up to watch their short-form videos. That referral payment program quickly helped the app to become the number one free app on Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store earlier this month, and Sensor Tower reports that it has already been downloaded over 3 million times. Kuaishou, the company that owns Zynn, runs one of the biggest video apps in China, and makes money by selling ads as long as it is able to bring in more money than it pays out. But Zynn is facing some challenges: The Google Play Store removed it last week after reports of plagiarism. The app is still available on the Apple Store, but Wired reports that “the app is full of stolen content”—including clips from major TikTok stars like Charli D’Amelio. (Zynn isn’t the only TikTok lookalike that has been banned from Google: Mitron, “India’s answer to TikTok” recently faced their own ban.) With TikTok’s spot in the social media landscape cemented by the pandemic, it will be difficult for carbon copy startups to win over users—especially if they aren’t offering something unique. Zynn might have an impressive amount of downloads, but they’re not likely to take down TikTok.
What if TikTok was only about educational fun that was safe for young kids? That’s the concept behind Zigazoo, which calls itself the “#1 video sharing app for families and schools. Zigazoo gives kids short video-based exercises they can answer through video. First, users “watch videos made by friends and your favorite characters on an endless feed of learning fun.” They can then respond with their own take on the activity, and share those videos with friends. Clips are organized by topics like “science” and “literacy” and feature videos on how to make a baking soda volcano or make fractions out of food. Geared toward preschoolers through middle schoolers, TechCrunch reports that the free app already has 100,000 videos uploaded to its site in just a month. This summer, the app’s founder is planning to launch “Zigazoo Channels” in partnership with children’s entertainment companies, podcasts, museums, libraries, zoos, and influencers. The platform’s focus on kids could be the key to its success, as Millennial parents hunt for resources to entertain and educate their children at home during COVID-19. As the app’s founder tells TechCrunch, “Zigazoo is a not a kid play date smack dab in the middle of an adult party like YouTube and TikTok, it is a universe tailor-made for kid safety, learning and enjoyment.” With at-home education potentially continuing during the next school year, parents who are looking for learning resources could make Zigazoo a hit. While its more niche focus and younger target demographic won’t make this app a monster global hit it could have a very bright future—and be a smart place for brands to reach families.
After a new app finds success with young users, it’s only a matter of time before Facebook comes out with their take on the concept. They already made one attempt at a TikTok clone, Lasso, which was built from scratch and marketed as a standalone product. Now, their New Product Experimentation (NPE) Team has another contender: Collab. This app is also standalone, but focused completely on music, or “mak[ing] music together while we’re apart.” Users can pair together three different videos to create a musical collaboration. As the announcement site explains, “Collabs are three independent videos that are playing in sync. With the app, you can create your own arrangement by adding in your own recording or by swiping and discovering an arrangement to complete your composition. No musical experience is required.” Those creations can then be shared on other social platforms. Currently, interested users can sign up for the Collab waitlist, with invites to come to U.S. and Canadian markets in waves. Facebook doesn’t have a great track record for creating copycat apps—or spinoff apps in general—but they have said before that their the NPE is building things they expect to fail, in order to learn about features that could be integrated into larger platforms. The role of music on TikTok is enormous—but musical clips are most often provided via the audio library, not necessary created by users themselves. Those without musical talent could be intimidated by Collab’s concept, and its odds of mainstream success aren’t high, but we could see elements of the app make their way onto the tech giant’s other products.
Instagram is testing a new editing tool that according to The Verge, “copies TikTok’s best features.” The video-remix feature Reels, which is being tested in Brazil, will let Instagram Story users create 15-second videos and set them to music, which can be shared on Stories or a new “Top Reels” section of the Explore tab. TechCrunch explains, “Just like TikTok, users can soundtrack their Reels with a huge catalog of music, or borrow the audio from anyone else’s video to create a remix of their meme or joke.” Here’s where we’re most likely to see a TikTok copycat find success. Instagram is one of the most used social platforms among young consumers, with 62% of 13-39-year-olds telling YPulse they are on the app, compared to 31% who use TikTok. The reality is that they have a bigger U.S. audience to reach, and it’s been proven before that they can successfully “borrow” the features of up-and-comers to engage that user base. (Ahem, Snapchat Stories.) But the integration of a TikTok-like feature into Instagram isn’t a threat to TikTok itself. What’s more likely is that Reels will be integrated into Instagram to create a new interesting function that will help to keep Instagram on top, while TikTok grows in its own right. If the Brazil beta is a success (we will guess it will be) then you can expect that Reels will soon be a regular part of Instagram, where users and brands will begin to make it their own.