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TikTok might still be dominating the download charts in the US, but it’s now facing some competition. Users have recently rushed to download a different short video app that looks almost identical to the popular Chinese app.
The app is called Zynn, and it comes from the company behind Kuaishou, the main competitor of TikTok’s Chinese version. After being released earlier this month on iOS and Android, Zynn recently soared to the top of the iOS App Store in the US, ranking first in the entertainment category and second among all apps on Thursday.
If you’re familiar with TikTok, then you already know how Zynn works. You browse user-generated video clips through endless vertical scrolling. Even the layout of the like and comment buttons look similar.
But Zynn’s sudden popularity isn’t just because people can’t get enough short videos. The app has been offering users cash rewards and gift cards, which the app says are only available to users in the US and Canada. Simply by watching videos or inviting at least five friends to the app, Zynn users can gather points that can be converted into a cash balance.
Some users have managed to successfully cash out with PayPal, according to tutorial videos uploaded to YouTube. According to a video posted by the channel Tech Hustler, the reviewer was able to withdraw US$120 in three payments before Zynn switched to offering gift cards. The app cited “technical difficulties” with cash withdrawals because of “higher than expected traffic.”
Zynn doesn’t explicitly say who is behind the app, but Kuaishou confirmed to us that it made the app. On app stores, though, Zynn is shown as coming from a company called Owlii Inc.
Owlii started in 2015 as a company developing “3D reconstruction technology” for AR and VR applications. But it now looks like the company is owned by Kuaishou, as reported by The Information, which cited people with knowledge about Zynn. And the Owlii website now sports a Kuaishou logo next to Owlii’s own, as spotted by Turner Novak, general partner at Gelt Venture Capital.
A 3D imaging company might seem like a strange acquisition for Kuaishou, but it does explain Owlii’s pivot to short videos. In China, Kuaishou is the biggest rival to Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok. It currently boasts more than 300 million daily active users and is backed by Chinese tech giant Tencent. By comparison, Douyin has more than 400 million daily active users in China.
The Information reported that Zynn is Kuaishou’s “first serious attempt” at the US market, but it’s not the company’s first international app. For that, it has Kwai, which is where Zynn’s cash rewards come from, according to the Tech Hustler video.
It remains to be seen whether Zynn can keep the users who are only showing up for the cash rewards. Kuaishou’s other international efforts had fleeting success. Kwai topped the charts in Russia and some Asian countries in 2018, but that popularity didn’t last. If the same happens with Zynn, then there’s also Snack Video, another TikTok clone that Kuaishou launched in April.
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