TikTok’s Top U.S. Competitor … Is Also Chinese-Owned

President Trump wants to ban TikTok in the U.S., but he’ll consider allowing a U.S. company to purchase it. As long as, in a novel twist, the U.S. government gets a cut. Meanwhile, U.S.-owned Triller is positioning itself as the biggest beneficiary to India’s TikTok ban, with 40 million new installs, and by extension, the likely winner of an American ban.

But in this latest episode of Meet the Kardashians, White House edition, they’re all potentially being played.

Because the fastest-growing non-TikTok short-form video entertainment app is also Chinese-owned. Economic and trade policy, meet Whack-A-Mole.

“What you think you know is that if TikTok gets banned in the US, Triller, Byte, or Dubsmash may take over as the primary/preferred short-form video social networking app,” says app analytics firm Apptopia’s Adam Blacker. “Though neither of those is the current leader in the clubhouse as the top competitor to TikTok in the world, or the United States.”

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Instead, Tiktok’s current top competitor is Likee. And it’s massively outpacing its perhaps better-known (in the press) competitors. In the past six months, Likee has more than twice as many app installs in the U.S. as the next leading contender, Triller.

  • Likee: 7.25 million installs
  • Triller: just under 3 million
  • Dubsmash: just under 2 million
  • Byte: 1.75 million

Even more telling, Likee has more more daily active users — a key measure of an app’s health and ability to keep users engaged — than all three combined.

And yes, Likee is owned by a China-based company.

“Likee is a very similar app to TikTok with very similar content,” Blacker says. “It’s published by BIGO Technology, which is owned by Joyy. Joyy is a company based in China that is competitive with Bytedance and it trades on the NASDAQ under ticker YY.”

Which brings up a point.

Kids are going to go where they want to go, both online and in apps. And things change quickly in mobile. While TikTok is by far the giant of the category right now — 47.46 million app installs in the same six months as the others above — that could change quickly. Very quickly of course, with a ban, but also somewhat quickly even without a ban.

Which does make you wonder what policy might be best for banning apps or forcing foreign companies to divest properties.

To be clear, there are reasonable motives for regulating Chinese — or other foreign countries — activities in the the U.S. After all, U.S. companies do not enjoy anything like free access to China … just ask Google, or Amazon, or Microsoft. Trade and foreign relations are often, therefore, tit-for-tat.

But a more reasoned and holistic approach might be appropriate.

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