The Vine shutdown in 2016 left the door wide open for short video sharing apps. Though Instagram and Snapchat offer similar features, TikTok was the app that really filled the void. TikTkok was the #1 downloaded social media platform in 2019, and now has over 500 million active users.
But I wouldn’t call the game just yet. Particularly in the United States.
Byte—basically Vine 2—launched on Friday, and TikTok better watch out. There are a few reasons why I think the TikTok vs. Byte battle will be something for digital marketers to keep an eye on.
TikTok’s Privacy Concerns
TikTok has already incurred privacy violations.
- In 2019, TikTok was hit with a major fine by the FTC for illegally collecting the data of children under the age of 13 on its Musical.ly app
- Former TikTok employees in the U.S. claimed that TikTok’s parent company in Beijing would restrict videos that it deemed subversive or controversial. I’m normally not one to take claims from former employees as law, but the allegations were supported by the lack of TikTok videos about the Hong Kong protests in 2019. There were plenty on other social media platforms, but very little on TikTok. Seems pretty fishy if you ask me.
- Following these developments, the U.S. government opened an investigation of TikTok. The U.S. Army has also banned TikTok downloads on government phones.
For such a new company, this is not a great start in the United States as far as public relations go.
Publisher Incentives Will Help Make Byte More Profitable
Another area where I think Byte is poised to succeed is with how it will reward publishers. Forum discussions have suggested using Steemit and Dtube as examples for content monetization. These platforms reward content publishers with cryptocurrency, and the size of the reward depends on how popular the content is.
Obviously, a post by a user on the official forum about a topic means nothing in itself. But it shows where the community’s head is at, and who its role models are.
At the very least, TikTok’s own economy isn’t winning it any friends. Currently, you can’t get paid for producing content on TikTok, and its users are starting to get impatient. The platform has pretty much ignored these complaints. Moreover, no ads run during users’ content—a sort of preemptive strike on publisher bargaining power.
As long as Byte plays its cards right, it’s not going to have to do too much to attract top publishers and win audiences.
Vine’s History With Advertising
One of the reasons that Vine was shut down was its cold reception to many advertisers prevented it from thriving. Because of this history, Byte will probably have a harder stance on advertising than TikTok. And, as long as the publisher incentives are good enough, it will not have to scale advertising with popularity.
As long as Byte can keep publishers happy with their own reward system that is independent of advertising dollars, it will be free to publish as much or as little advertising as it wants.
User Experience + Privacy + Publisher Monetization = Success
I think Byte will end up being bigger than TikTok because this isn’t the developer’s first rodeo. Life is all about learning from mistakes, and the only mistake Vine made was that it was too user friendly.
When you consider the brand’s focus on its users, the role models it has, and the criticisms of its competitors, I don’t think it’s too crazy to forecast Byte surpassing TikTok in the United States within a couple years.