Just a few hours ago, the Government of India issued an order banning as many as 59 Chinese owned smartphone apps in the country. The notification issued by The Ministry of Information Technology of the Government of India derived powers under the section 69A of the Information Technology Act read with the relevant provisions of the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking of Access of Information by Public) Rules 2009 citing the concerns about the security, integrity and defense of India. The apps that now stand banned in India, across all platforms now include TikTok, Shareit, WeChat, Helo, Likee, UC News, Bigo Live, UC Browser, ES File Explorer and Mi Community. All big names, but one does truly stand out.
But does this open up the door for Facebook to take advantage of the situation and introduce the Facebook Lasso and Instagram Reels products in India. At this time, with TikTok inaccessible, all the creators and influencers on the platform are searching for a viable alternative to ply their trade. And show their creative side. This could be a good time for Facebook to simply bring their TikTok alternatives, because people need to switch. And fast. Never has there been a more ready-made demographic of users, just waiting to sign up.
Facebook Lasso and Instagram Reels, With WhatsApp as the secret ingredient
Facebook Lasso also has similar set of features as TikTok, including the ability to shoot and post 15-second videos. You can overlay these with popular music tracks, filters, effects, hashtags, the ability to directly share to Facebook and more. At this time, Lasso has pretty limited availability around the world, including the US, though it has already seen more than 5,000,000 downloads just on the Google Play Store till now. Facebook, which also owns Instagram, has a similar product for that photo sharing social media platform as well. It is called Instagram Reels and that’s also all about the magic of 15-second videos, dressed up with a variety of music tracks, filters and editing tools. This app also has limited availability right now, including Brazil, Germany and France.
In India, WhatsApp could prove to be the secret ingredient for Lasso or Reels, whichever one Facebook does eventually decide to launch in India. If at all. A simple integration in the most popular instant messaging app could make all the difference in terms of popularizing the new video sharing platform and give it the sort of adoption push that would otherwise be unimaginable.
TikTok’s numbers must have worried Facebook
TikTok, owned by Chinese tech company ByteDance, has climbed the popularity charts rapidly. The ability to showcase creativity and talent in quick 15-second videos had caught the attention of the masses. And that is truer in India than anywhere else in the world. According to data analytics firm App Annie, India accounted for 323 million, which is 44%, of the total 740 million TikTok app downloads in 2019 across all platforms. They also suggest that Indians spent 5.5 billion hours on the TikTok app last year. In fact, at the beginning of this year, it was reported that ByteDance was targeting Rs 100 crore in revenue in India, banking on new quick advert formats for brands as well.
While TikTok’s revenue targets were still no match for Facebook, TikTok’s active user base was proving to be a headache for the world’s largest social media platform, Facebook. According to regulatory filings by Facebook, they clocked Rs 892 crore in revenue in India in 2018-19.
Does TikTok still have a future?
TikTok has confirmed that they have been invited to meet with the Government to respond to the order and submit clarifications. TikTok, a popular social media platform owned by Chinese tech company ByteDance, is on the list of banned apps. At this time, TikTok is also not available for download on the Google Play Store for Android phones and the Apple App Store for the iPhone. “The Government of India has issued an interim order for the blocking of 59 apps, including TikTok and we are in the process of complying with it. We have been invited to meet with concerned government stakeholders for an opportunity to respond and submit clarifications,” says Nikhil Gandhi, Head of TikTok, India, in a statement. The company says they continue to comply with all data privacy and security requirements under Indian law and has not shared any information of our users in India with any foreign government, including the Chinese Government. Gandhi insists that even if they are requested to do so in the future, they would not. “We place the highest importance on user privacy and integrity,” says Gandhi.