January 17, 2021
TikTok alternatives: 5 similar apps to check out in case of a ban

TikTok alternatives: 5 similar apps to check out in case of a ban


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Angela Lang/CNET

The potential ban on TikTok, along with messaging app WeChat, is on hold after the Trump administration approved a deal last month for Oracle and Walmart to acquire stakes in the US operations of the short-form video app. TikTok came under fire due to the administration’s national security concerns regarding the Chinese-owned company. 

TikTok and WeChat are massive global apps: TikTok has amassed over 100 million users in the US and 2 billion downloads worldwide with a surge of popularity during the pandemic. 

What’s more, TikTok is the first non-US-based social network to make it big worldwide. Other apps, like China’s Twitter equivalent Weibo, haven’t made the leap to international popularity.


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The deal is the latest event in the saga between the popular Chinese apps and the US government. According to a September statement from US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, the administration’s decision to ban the app was meant to “combat China’s malicious collection of American citizens’ personal data.” Intelligence agencies, however, have determined that there’s no evidence that China has collected data through TikTok, though it’s possible. And now, if the Chinese government approves the deal with Oracle and Walmart, the company will move its headquarters to the US. 

In the meantime, if you’re looking for a TikTok alternative while the legal situation is sorted out, here are some short-video creation apps to check out.

Screenshots by Shelby Brown/CNET

Reels is a video feature that launched in August on Instagram. With Reels, you can film, edit and post 15-second videos (its minimum clip length is three seconds) in the app. To get started, make sure you’ve got the latest version of the Instagram app on iOS or Android. You can find Reels by swiping right to open the camera and tapping Reels. (Read our full Reels tutorial here.)

If you’ve used Vine or TikTok, Reels should feel familiar to you. On the left side of the screen, there’s a slew of filters, songs to add, timed text options and other effects. 

You can easily swap and post to your Instagram page or story as well. Plus you can save a Reel to your drafts to keep working on it later. 

Triller/Screenshot by Shelby Brown/CNET

Rival TikTok app Triller started gaining more attention this month as members of the Trump family including the president joined amid the TikTok negotiations. Similar to TikTok, Triller offers video and music features: Choose a song from the app’s library or import their own song, film or upload a video, and edit and share on different social media platforms. You can also collaborate with friends on the app.

Triller also offers a vlog feature that lets you edit your footage in a B-roll documentary style, or Make a Music Video, which lets you upload clips without adding audio.

The app has social features like TikTok with the Community and Following feed. If you amass a large enough following, Triller’s Wallet system can actually make you money. Triller has Gold, its in-app currency, which followers can gift to each other. Earning enough Gold can help you get Gems, which can be exchanged for real cash. 

Triller is available on iOS and Android

YouTube

Though it’s not yet available in the US, YouTube is working on a TikTok-style video feature called YouTube Shorts. Shorts will let creators film quick, catchy videos at a maximum length of 15 seconds. YouTube will also provide tools to edit multiple video clips together, as well as speed controls, timer and countdown options for recording hands-free. 

Currently, YouTube Shorts is being tested on Android phones in Brazil. The company plans to expand to iOS in more countries soon.

Screenshots by Shelby Brown/CNET

Byte was developed by Vine co-founder Dom Hoffman, and it’s currently available on Android and iOS. The app’s interface is similar to that of TikTok. You can either upload a video from your phone or film a new one. It probably has the fewest special effects features in terms of editing. When I made a clip, I was only able to add text and a song, and the app was rather limited in choices for both. One cool feature Byte does offer is Ghost Mode: If you tap the ghost icon while filming, it’ll make your original image look faded, creating a dream-like or flashback effect. 

Until you start following other users, Byte will show a variety of videos in your home feed. If you tap the magnifying glass, you can start exploring. The app sorts videos into different categories like trending stuff, or genres like comedy, anime, weird things, pets, magic and more, instead of hashtags, like TikTok uses. 

Dubsmash/Screenshot by Shelby Brown/CNET

Dubsmash is a video-sharing app based in New York. Creators can record new videos or upload old ones, and edit using filters, stickers and text. Upload your creation to Dubsmash and grow a following there, or share your clips on other social media platforms. Clips on Dubsmash can be public or private.

Dubsmash feels the most like TikTok to me with its Trending feeds, Explore tab, direct message and favoriting features. The app is available on iOS and Android

For more, you can read our explainer about what’s been going on with TikTok in the US, and our list of WeChat alternatives. You can also check out our list of the best free video chat apps


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