The future of TikTok in the U.S. is all but certain. Microsoft, Walmart, or Oracle could save the day by buying the company, TikTok may win its lawsuit, or China's new restrictions could halt everything — but all could fail. Just like Vine before it, TikTok could be on its way out, only for opposite reasons. But will it matter if TikTok gets banned in the States? With the competition heating up, likely not.
Believe it or not, TikTok isn't the only short-form video app on the market. Far from it. In fact, there are more apps out there than necessary. Some are definitely rush-jobs to compete with TikTok, but the ones that aren't are quite good, and, most importantly, varied. And not all are just trying to be TikTok clones — some have a unique spin on things.
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While there are already apps out there that are worth your time, you should know that there are more on the way. Why wouldn't there be? Short videos are clearly popular, and people want in. And with TikTok's dominance in jeopardy, there's likely more and more room at the top.
Consider India. The country banned TikTok well before the U.S. considered doing so. The market wasn't just going to sit back and leave a nation of 1.35 billion people behind. So now, there are a ton of apps out there competing for that audience. While we cover some of those apps below, many likely won't connect to a U.S. audience quite yet.
App 1: Instagram (Reels)
If you're involved with social media, you likely know about Reels already. But, in a show of how fast the short video market keeps evolving, Reels wasn't even a thing when the government first floated a potential TikTok ban. At least, not in the U.S.
We've actually known about Reels for some time. Instagram opted to test its TikTok-like feature outside of the U.S. to start, but it's here now, in all its glory. Since it's so new in the States, Reels continues to evolve almost daily, as Instagram tinkers with how it looks and works throughout the app.
There are two primary things that Reels has going for it. First, Instagram's huge userbase, including a slew of big-name participants. Second, a good selection of effects. There's no better recipe to replicate TikTok's success than having a lot of people making content and giving us the tools to make videos fun and engaging.
That said, it still has a ways to go. My biggest issue at this time is the lack of focus. Unlike TikTok, which has a whole app dedicated to short videos, Reels is sprinkled throughout Instagram. You access the main feed through the Explore page, but you also find Reels in stories, on your main Instagram feed, and so on. Saving and favoriting Reels isn't as clear-cut as it is on TikTok, either.
The whole thing feels more like an afterthought than an actual, dedicated short-form experience, but that doesn't mean we're giving up on Reels. With a little more development, Reels likely has the best shot at taking over TikTok's top spot here in the U.S.
App 2: YouTube (Shorts)
One service to keep a lookout for in the US is Shorts, YouTube's answer to short-form video. The company launched the service on Sept. 14, but only in India to start. It's surprising YouTube took this long to implement this type of feature. After all, the site is both the grandfather and the king of self-produced internet video. In fact, it's the best place to find old Vines to binge if you're so inclined.
From what we've seen so far, Shorts feels very much like Reels — the feature is found inside the YouTube app itself, so no standalone program for short videos. Like Reels and TikTok, you can make Shorts using a specific camera mode (dubbed, appropriately, the Shorts camera), where you can shoot short clips, change the speed, and choose a track amongst YouTube's large and evergrowing library.
We don't know when YouTube plans to make Shorts official in the US. We will update this piece when we learn more.
App 3: Facebook (Lasso or Short Videos)
It might surprise you to learn that Facebook once had a short video app of its own, which completely flew under the radar since its introduction in late-2018. The company shut down shop on July 10, just ahead of the launch for Reels.
While it might seem like Facebook is completely done with the Lasso brand, there is some talk the app could make a reappearance. Since Reels is a Facebook product, why would it create a competing feature in its main app? Well, Facebook and Instagram are two wildly different experiences and communities, so perhaps the company will figure something out.
According to TechCrunch, its already testing a new iteration of Lasso called "Short Videos" in the big blue app, but it's only in India right now. Once Facebook polishes it up, it could hit the States shortly after that. Reels for Instagram started testing in late-2019, but it didn't appear in India until July 2020 when TikTok was shut down there. The next month, it was a U.S. feature, so we could be looking at around eight months or one month before it comes to the U.S. — or it may never come at all.
App 4: Triller
TikTok has its fair share of big names and celebrities. Many of its alternatives, however, just aren't mainstream enough to say the same. Triller is quite an exception. As soon as you open the app, you'll find videos from A-List stars, such as Miley Cyrus, Snoop Dogg, and Mike Tyson. That's because Triller serves as the TikTok of music videos, as much as it does for skits.
It's not just big names flooding the app, however. There are plenty of homegrown creators making content for Triller. You won't have any problem mindlessly scrolling through videos for hours, mostly because the app does it for you. Unlike other apps, where videos loop over and over again, Triller moves on to the next video as soon as one finishes. It's not a bad system by any means, but it will take just adjusting to if you're used to letting videos loop until you're ready to move on.
Triller is definitely a popular app, so there won't be any shortage of videos or comments for you to spend your time on. What's interesting, however, is that the app's appearance doesn't match its userbase. The video, filter, and text quality all feel a little less polished than something like TikTok. Those filters stand in place of any real effects, a key TikTok feature.
However, it doesn't matter, considering just how many people use the app.
App 5: Dubsmash
Dubsmash is not a new app. It launched in 2014 and was one of the pioneers in lip-syncing videos. While you might still find lip-sync videos with scrolling through Dubsmash, you'll also find more of a familiarity with TikTok. You can choose to follow accounts to scroll through or stick to the For You page, just like you can with TikTok.
Your biggest downside to switching to Dubsmash is the lack of effects. Unfortunately, the app doesn't have any, save for some elementary filters. While TikTok provides you with the likes of Adobe After Effects, Dubsmash is more about the raw video. That doesn't mean you won't find some creative content — but some of that content might just be ripped from TikTok.
One strange note? Dubsmash doesn't appear to let you pause. Why that is isn't clear, as it's the only app on this list that doesn't allow you to stop playing a video without leaving it entirely.
App 6: Byte
With all this talk about missing Vine (RIP Vine, for the record), it's a bit of a surprise that Byte, an app developed by the creator of Vine, isn't more popular.
Byte is a complete spiritual successor to Vine. You have your short videos, an easy-to-use UI, and a focus on 15-second long entertainment. What I like about the app is the way it sorts the content into communities called "channels." Unlike the usual hashtags on other apps, Byte breaks things down into useful, creative, and sometimes comical channels. Where else are you going to find a collection of videos under the name "Trash?"
That said, one thing going against Byte is the lack of users. It's very apparent that Byte has a much smaller population compared to TikTok. The humor is more niche, there are fewer comments, and it just feels a bit emptier. That doesn't mean the experience is bad — it might just be a bit harder to find "mainstream" humor.
The service also strips the video-creating experience down to the core. There are no fancy video effects or filters here — just do your thing on-camera. The best you'll get is "experimental features," which, at this time, consist of floating text, floating photos, and floating GIFs. Byte seems to have an interest in things that "float."
App 7: Firework
Firework does something that no other app on this list but TikTok does: asks about your interests at the start. While it's always nice to have someone care about your interests, the real benefit is having the app recommend videos that align with those interests. That way, you don't need to sift through the same videos everyone sees right from the get-go.
The other thing Firework has going for it is "Reveal." Most short-video apps are optimized for mobile, meaning videos are shot and displayed in portrait (9:16). Reveal allows you to shift video aspect ratios at any time, just by turning your phone. The change happens in real-time, too, so you can watch more of the scene come into the frame as you turn your phone to the side.
Reveal only works for compatible videos since you can't retroactively apply the effect to videos that weren't shot this way. All you'd do is crop and zoom perfectly good 9:16 videos.
In all other aspects, Firework is a decent option. There's a sizeable userbase here, and while you'll see plenty of stolen TikToks, there's plenty of Firework original content to scroll through as well.
It Doesn't End Here
There are many, many short-form video apps on the App Store and Play Store. If the options above don't do it for you, you're more than welcome to check them out. However, some of the possibilities we omitted from this list don't seem to have the same staying power or potential that TikTok has, for one reason or another.
Some apps seem a bit cheap, while others are under-populated. That doesn't mean that they won't be formidable options in the future. If you want to keep an eye on these apps, here you go:
- Funimate (Android | iOS)
- Lomotif (Android | iOS)
- Likee (Android | iOS)
- Josh (Android)
- ShareChat (Android)
- Gaana (Android)
Just know, this industry is certainly volatile. Two of the apps we were looking at, Vigo Video and Chingari, were removed from both the App Store and Play Store in the process of creating this article.
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