TikTok’s Instagram rival Vue makes no impact

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TikTok earlier this month launched a new social app called Whee, an Instagram-like service for taking photos to share with friends. Like Instagram, Whee also supports the use of photo filters and includes messaging. However, the company’s plans for Whee are unclear, as the app has relatively few downloads and has not yet advertised itself through Apple’s search ads, according to new data from app intelligence firm Appfigures.

Without marketing support, new apps remain largely invisible on today’s app stores. This appears to be the case with Vue, which quietly launched in 71 countries around the world on June 18. Due to the lack of promotion, Vue did not find a place in the top free apps chart on Apple’s App Store, nor did it immediately become one of the top 500 social apps in its supported markets, although that later changed.

Whis is linked to TikTok, which is owned by Beijing-based Bytedance, but according to its app store listing, it is published by TikTok itself, not its parent company.

As of Tuesday, Whee had a total of 13,000 downloads on iOS and over 10,000 on Android, according to Google Play data. It’s also clear that it’s not being sold in the US at the moment, as its top markets on iOS include Malaysia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Peru, and Indonesia. Still, these countries are only contributing a small number of downloads.

For example, No. 1 market Malaysia had 2,400 downloads while Indonesia ranked fifth with just 800 installs. Due to the low numbers, these are likely downloads by people who came across Vue while searching the app store. In smaller markets with fewer apps, Vue made it into the top 500 social apps, although it never reached the top 10 and mostly stayed in the top 50.

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Image Credit: AppFigures

In addition, AppFigures says ByteDance has not yet tried to advertise Vue through Apple’s Search Ads, which help apps rank higher when App Store users search for apps using specific keywords. The firm found no Apple Search Ads activity associated with Vue yet. Furthermore, user feedback from those searching for Vue is also quite weak, as the app has an overall rating of 3.6 out of 5 globally across 31 App Store ratings, of which only 10 are reviews.

ByteDance has not commented on its plans for Whis, but the timing of the app’s launch has surprised people, as President Biden officially signed the TikTok ban into law in late April after the House passed a revised bill mandating a TikTok ban or sale. (TikTok has since sued the US to stop the law from taking effect, which will delay the ban for at least some time while the legality is worked out in the courts.)

The arrival of Whis could be a kind of Plan B that allows ByteDance to maintain a social presence in the US even if the ban on TikTok remains in place.

This isn’t the first time ByteDance has tried to generate interest in other social apps outside of TikTok. Earlier in 2023, the company quietly launched another Instagram-like app, Lemon8, in the US and UK, and even paid TikTok influencers money to post about the app to push its early content. Those efforts didn’t pay off right away; as of November 2023, US downloads of the app on iOS had only reached 2.5 million — pretty impressive numbers for a new startup, but nothing close to the size of TikTok, which has more than a billion monthly active users, including 170 million in the US. However, Lemon8 could be a slow-burn attempt at growth. Today, it’s the No. 2 lifestyle app in the US, with about 7.7 million iOS installs in this market.

ByteDance also operates another popular video app, Capcut, which is often used to create TikTok videos. And it also worked for a while with BeReal’s rival, TikTok Now, although it was shut down in less than a year. Currently, it is testing another Instagram competitor, TikTok Notes.

Whether Whee will work as well as Lemon8 remains to be seen. But if your favorite TikTok influencer starts talking about Whee randomly in the future, be aware that they may have been paid to do so.

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