Jessica Goodfellow
Feb 5, 2020

TikTok attempts to quash Vine successor Byte

The short-video app has already exceeded 1 million downloads in a week, prompting TikTok to launch a search-advertising counter-offensive.

TikTok attempts to quash Vine successor Byte

Watch out TikTok. There's a new short-form video app in town, launched by the cofounder of the once hugely popular Vine, and it has already exceeded 1 million downloads during its first week.

Byte hit app stores on January 24 and saw an estimated 735,000 worldwide downloads in the first weekend of its release, according to App Annie data.

It has now topped 1 million downloads on iOS and Android, according to App Annie's latest figures, which cover through Sunday. Sensor Tower is reporting a higher figure: over 1.3 million downloads during the first week, of which 70% originated from the US, with the UK and Canada making up a further 7% and 6% of installs, respectively.

Byte was the top social-networking app for daily iPhone downloads in the US on its first weekend of launch, and was first by daily iPhone downloads in the US, Australia, Norway, Ireland and New Zealand as of January 27. It is currently being featured by Apple's App Store.

The app's creator is Dom Hofman, who first teased his plans to launch a Vine successor in November 2018, initially slating its release for spring 2019. Vine was shut down in late 2016 after Twitter, which acquired it in 2012 ahead of its launch, failed to make it commercially viable. Hofmann cofounded Vine along with Rus Yusupov and Colin Kroll, but left the business in 2014 to pursue a new startup. 

Byte's launch has overtaken Vine's, which achieved 775,000 iOS downloads in its first week in 2013.

This is despite various issues currently plaguing the app, including bots spamming the comment feed, offensive and inappropriate content for an app with a 12+ rating, and username issues. According to a Slate report, users have been claiming popular celebrity usernames like Taylor Swift Trump, Jeff Bezos, Tiger Woods and others. The company has promised a cleanup was underway.

Byte adopts Vine's six-second format—less than half TikTok and Instagram Stories' usual 15-second format, and lower than Snapchat's 10-second format.

“The power of six seconds can’t be fully understood without understanding the generation that is driving this shift, the Gen Z. Born between 1997 and 2012, Gen Z are mobile natives with 98% owning a smartphone on average by the age of 10,” Cindy Deng, managing director of App Annie, Asia Pacific, tells Campaign Asia-Pacific.

Unlike millennials, who were merely early adopters, Gen Z has grown up with social media as a core part of their daily lives. Staying in touch with friends was only the third most important reason Gen Z claim they use social media for. In contrast, filling up spare time and finding entertaining content were first and second, respectively, which explains the popularity of apps like Snapchat and TikTok. App Annie has found that globally, consumers spent 50% more sessions in entertainment apps in 2019 than in 2017. It's why TikTok has been positioning itself as more of an entertainment app than a social network.

“Short-form and disappearing content motivates users to regularly engage with the app, and already we have seen Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat have all developed exemplars of short and engaging content," Deng adds.

Global time spent in TikTok exceeded 68 billion hours and grew 210% year over year in 2019. By December last year, TikTok had 717 million smartphone monthly active users (MAUs) worldwide, up 70% year over year, according to App Annie data.

TikTok has been quick to respond to Byte's immediate success; it is already running paid search ads  on the keyword 'Byte' in the Apple App Store.

While Snapchat has been somewhat overshadowed by TikTok's huge growth, it remains a popular app for Gen Z. It was the eighth most downloaded app globally in 2019, according to App Annie.

Byte will also be competing with Quibi, a short-form entertainment app slated to launch in April this year. The subscription and ad-supported video platform has already signed up a number of Hollywood stars for "quick bites" video series that are 10 minutes or less. It plans to spend $1.1 billion on commissioning original content in its first year, totaling 7,000 short-form episodes.

With new apps on the horizon, and as the lines between social media and entertainment blur, Deng expects competition for 'share of screen' on mobile to heat up.

“While the competition in the video streaming space will bolster better user experiences to drive growth in downloads, usage and revenue, and ultimately lead to partnerships and consolidation in the long term, we will see companies vying to win not just consumers’ share of wallet, instead, share of screen,” Deng concludes.

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