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TikTok’s Instagram rival, Whee, has no traction

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 aren’t clear, as the app has relatively few downloads and has yet to advertise itself via 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 Store. That appears to be the case for Whee, as well, which quietly launched June 18 in 71 countries worldwide. Due to the lack of promotion, Whee didn’t find its way into 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, though that later changed.

Whee is connected to TikTok, which is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, but it’s published by TikTok itself, not its parent, according to its App Store listing.

As of Tuesday, Whee had only gained 13,000 total global downloads on iOS and somewhere north of 10,000 Android downloads, per Google Play data. It’s also clearly not being pushed in the U.S. for the time being, as its top markets on iOS include Malaysia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Peru and Indonesia. Still, those countries are only contributing a small number of downloads.

For instance, the No. 1 market Malaysia delivered 2,400 downloads while Indonesia rounded up fifth place with just 800 installs. Because of the small numbers, these are likely downloads from people who randomly came across Whee while searching the App Store. In smaller markets with fewer apps, Whee made it into the Top 500 Social apps, though never as high as the Top 10 and mostly well past 50.

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Image Credits: Appfigures

What’s more, Appfigures says ByteDance hasn’t yet tried to advertise Whee via Apple’s Search Ads, which help apps rank highly when App Store users search for apps using specific keywords. There hasn’t been any Apple Search Ads activity connected with Whee as of yet, the firm found. In addition, user feedback from those who found Whee is also fairly tepid, as the app has an Overall rating of 3.6 out of 5 globally, across 31 App Store ratings, only 10 of which have reviews.

ByteDance has not commented on its plans for Whee, but the timing of the app’s launch has raised eyebrows given that President Biden officially signed the TikTok ban into law in late April after the House passed a revised bill that forced either a TikTok ban or sale. (TikTok has since sued the U.S. to block the law from coming into effect, which will at least delay the ban for some time while the legality is worked out in the courts.)

Whee’s arrival could be a plan B of sorts that allows ByteDance to maintain a social presence in the U.S., even if TikTok’s ban is upheld.

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 U.S. and U.K., and even paid TikTok influencers to post about the app in order to seed its initial content. Those efforts didn’t immediately pay off; by November 2023, the app’s U.S. downloads on iOS had only reached 2.5 million — great numbers for a new startup, but nothing near the size of TikTok, which has over a billion monthly active users, including the 170 million in the U.S. However, Lemon8 could be a slow-burn attempt at growth. Today, it’s the No. 2 Lifestyle app in the U.S., with nearly 7.7 million iOS installs in this market.

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ByteDance also operates another popular video app, CapCut, often used for making TikTok videos. And it briefly dabbled with a BeReal rival, TikTok Now, though that was shut down after less than a year.

Whether Whee will follow the same playbook as Lemon8 remains to be seen. But if your favorite TikTok influencer starts randomly talking about Whee at some point in the future, be aware they were probably paid to do so.

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Miranda Cosgrove

My Miranda cosgrove is an accomplished article writer with a flair for crafting engaging and informative content. With a deep curiosity for various subjects and a dedication to thorough research, Miranda cosgrove brings a unique blend of creativity and accuracy to every piece.

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