👉 Facebook's TikTok Clone Wars

What happened on Tech Twitter August 2-9

Yo! ✌️ I’m Brett! I am a Product Manager, musician, and Twitter power user. Twitter is where all the action happens in the tech industry but it’s not easy to keep up with. I write this weekly newsletter to help people stay informed on the most important discussions happening on Tech Twitter.

🚨 Help me make Social Studies even better! Please fill out this quick survey for a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card!


📅 Facebook has had a long history of cloning - Social media goes out of style like fashion, so Facebook needs to clone or buy new companies to stay alive.

👯‍♂️ Reels is the second TikTok clone from Facebook - Lasso was Facebook’s first attempt but may have been more of an experiment. With Instagram’s deep social graph, Reels is the real deal.

🥶 Cloning is bad but it’s hard to avoid - Facebook’s cloning has stunted innovation in consumer social but cloning is part of human nature. We’re mimetic creaturers.

✌️ TikTok will be fine if it isn’t banned - The algorithm is what makes TikTok great fo creators and viewers and it’s hard to copy. Also, Instagram’s UI is awful.

🚫 TikTok may still get banned - Trump gave TikTok 45 days to get acquired or get out. Deals can get done in less time, but everything is still up in the air.

👯‍♂️ Facebook has had a long history of cloning

Zuck has been known to be intensely obsessed with the competition.

Which has resulted in a ton of cloning.

Hunter Walk likes to point out that every 3-4 years a new paradigm in social media emerges based on the tastes of teens and twenty-somethings. Without adopting these new paradigms either through M&A or cloning, Facebook risks losing relevance as its user base ages.

Eugene Wei points out that Facebook is great at cloning but bad at predicting these paradigm shifts:

Facebook as a competitor reminds me of that class of zombies in movies that stagger around drunk most of the time, but the moment they spot a target, they sprint at it like a pack of cheetahs.

👯‍♂️ Reels is the second TikTok clone from Facebook

Lasso was Facebook’s first TikTok clone. It has been out for almost two years, just crossed 1M Android downloads and is consistently in the top 10 apps in Latin America.

Despite Lasso’s success, Facebook has consolidated its efforts around Reels, its TikTok clone in Instagram.

Turner points out why shutting down Lasso and focusing on Reels makes sense:

Facebook’s graph is its competitive advantage so it makes sense to lean heavily on it when competition is fierce. Lasso may have served as a massive experiment in anticipation that it would become a feature of an existing product eventually.

🥶 Cloning is bad but it’s hard to avoid

On one hand we can look at Facebook’s behavior as egregiously anticompetitive. Because Facebook has been so aggressive with clones over the years, consumer social innovation has been stunted.

Being a consumer social entrepreneur is tough when Facebook is the competition.

On the other hand, many consumer social products are actually just features. Imagine having to hop around four different apps to edit a photo you were going to post on Instagram anyway. Consolidation is better for consumers.

It should also be said that there are no new ideas. Humans are mimetic - we build what we see in the world, particularly when it seems to be working.

✌️ TikTok will be fine if it isn’t banned

Assuming TikTok doesn’t get banned from the US, the biggest concern is around the impact Reels will have on TikTok. Will it stunt growth like Instagram Stories stunted Snapchat’s growth? I doubt it. Two quick takes:

TikTok’s algorithm is hard to copy

The amount of work Bytedance put into making TikTok’s recommendation algorithm great should not be underestimated. It’s what gives new creators the ability to grow from zero to hundreds of thousands of followers in months and keeps viewers glued to the app. Instagram doesn’t have nearly as sophisticated an algorithm, nor a team set up to build one.

Reels has a low profile in Instagram

Instagram has become quite the frankenstein of a product over the years. This has made the impact of every new feature significantly less than if it were a standalone product.

Even more important is that Instagram isn’t likely to make any major changes to make Reels font and center. It’s a classic innovators dilemma case study - centering Instagram around Reels would destroy Instagram’s ad revenue coming from the feed.

🚫 TikTok may still get banned

Trump announced two executive orders that restrict business with WeChat and Tik Tok. Additionally, Tik Tok now has 45 days to land an M&A deal before it is banned from the US.

Deals can get done in less time and more companies seem to be evaluating TikTok for acquisition (Twitter), but there are still a number of scenarios in which a sale doesn’t happen.

💉 Quick dopamine hits

Check out these tweets

📖 Deeper reading

Tweetstorms and articles to curl up with a cup of coffee and read


Happy Monday!