US tech companies continue to challenge — and copy — TikTok

With censorship concerns looming, TikTok could lose its place as the hip place for social video.


November 13, 2019

Yichuan Cao/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The latest tech talk is who will take down TikTok. The video app has drawn scrutiny –– and a national security review –– for political censorship and privacy concerns…

Which paves the way for a string of challengers

Launched in September 2018, the video-sharing startup Firework already has 3m users and adds about 500k monthly. 

Even with growth as a goal, Firework has no plans to launch in China –– partly due to censorship concerns. But there’s more at play than moral scruples. TikTok already has the video-sharing market cornered in China, so focusing on markets like the US, India, and Brazil is a sound strategy. 

Meanwhile, there are rumblings that Google might acquire Firework. The app currently is valued at over $100m, but a deal could drive that number way up. 

Another video app that could chip away at TikTok’s dominance is Triller, which recently banked $28m in venture funding and has 13m users.

And a familiar face has joined the fray

Instagram just launched a new feature in Brazil. Reels allows users to create short videos, add music, and share them via the Stories feature. 

While startups like Firework and Triller must reach more people to be competitive, Instagram has a ready-made base of 1B users… which could help it go toe-to-toe with TikTok, which boasts close to 1.5B users. 

Limiting Reels’ release to Brazil might seem odd, but it gives Instagram the opportunity to work out any bugs before rolling it out to everyone. This strategy has worked well for Instagram before. It introduced Stories in markets that hadn’t yet been inundated by Snapchat.

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