TikTok rival byte debuts at top of US app store

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Byte, a new video-sharing app released Jan 24 to compete with ByteDance Inc’s TikTok, has rocketed to the top of Apple Inc’s US App Store.

Created by Dom Hofmann, Byte reboots the deprecated Vine video-sharing service, which he co-founded in the summer of 2012 and sold to Twitter Inc later that year. The parent company failed to find a way to make the service profitable and eventually discontinued it in 2016. Despite its brief existence, Vine became a cultural touchpoint in the United States, with many users embracing its six-second time limit as a creative challenge. It was where controversial YouTube star Logan Paul, whose channel now has more than 20 million subscribers, got his start.

Byte “ended Jan 24 as the No. 1 free iPhone app on the US App Store and is still in the top spot, ” said Randy Nelson of research firm Sensor Tower. Beside the United States, Byte is also the top free iOS app in Canada and ranks in the top 10 in Australia, New Zealand, Norway and Britain. On Android’s Play Store, Byte is sixth among free apps in the United States.

The new app was downloaded more than 780,000 times over the weekend, with three quarters of those installs coming from the United States, Sensor Tower estimated on Jan 27.

The timing of Byte’s release coincides with a moment of reckoning for TikTok and its Beijing-based parent company. ByteDance is looking to hire a chief executive officer for TikTok, which is under increasing scrutiny from US lawmakers wary about the influence of Chinese companies on American consumers. TikTok’s runaway popularity has been deemed to create “national security risks”, according to a letter by Senators Chuck Schumer and Tom Cotton in the fall.

Unlike ByteDance, which is the world’s highest-valued startup, and most other social media contenders, Byte is starting off small and its community guidelines make several references to the company’s modest budget. Still, the strong early response to Byte’s arrival – coming with little to no advance fanfare – suggests the community that Vine built up remains loyal to the particular six-second format. Some of the early popular videos on the platform are humorous proclamations of “Don’t post TikToks here.” – Bloomberg