There are a lot of apps, new & old, competing to be the successor of TikTok if Microsoft doesn't move forward with an acquisition deal before President Trump's updated deadline of November 1st. Instagram Reels dropped recently as perhaps the most compelling competitor, joining existing apps like Byte and Triller that have made their cases in the recent past.

All these apps can be tough to keep track of, and it's difficult to know just where you should migrate if you're looking to establish yourself in short-form social video content. In this article, I'll go over all the key differences between the TikTok and its 6 most interesting rival apps, from visual layout & video length to social feeds & monetization opportunity. Let's get started!

1. TikTok

Let's start with the most familiar app, by far, for short-form video in 2020. TikTok has dominated social media video in 2019 and 2020, and it will be a shame if 2020 sees it shut down in the US.

Visual layout:

Max video length:

1 minute. You're probably used to it – one minute gives you a surprising amount of time, and most of your faves rarely use more than half of it.

Music options:

You can select songs from TikTok's broad and very up-to-date music catalog, and identify trending sounds to use in your TikToks. You can also use your original sound in TikToks uploaded from your phone or recorded in the app. Third-party apps are required to add music that isn't found in TikTok's catalog.

Text options:

Text boxes with precise timing and positioning are central to many popular TikTok trends and styles. Background color is adjustable, as well.

Social feeds:

The targeted "For You" feed is now a household phrase, while there is also a more typical "Following" content feed. The Explore tab also provides specific trend collections.

Monetization:

For a long time, TikTok's top creators monetized their content like Instagram stars: by making promoted posts, often in curated sponsored trends. They could also collect money through "tips" given during live streams. But in the second half of 2020, they announced a new, $200 million fund to pay top creators for their content in an effort, mainly, to keep top talent on the platform. Its details are still rather unclear, but monetization options for TikTok users may experience a major overhaul.

2. Instagram Reels

Instagram Reels entered the field late in the game, but they've made a pretty big splash already. It was no real surprise coming from Facebook-owned Instagram, since they have enjoyed massive success piggybacking on Snapchat's Stories feature. Reels is a fairly close clone of TikTok, but there are some crucial distinctions between the two platforms.

Visual layout:

The visual layout of Reels may not be the most accurate TikTok clone of the bunch, but it's pretty close. If you want an unobstructed view of videos, Reels is the way to go – all the likes, comments, and actions are shoved to the very bottom edge of the screen.

Max video length:

15 seconds. It's a lot shorter than TikTok's length limit, but it probably won't actually make much difference. Even in users' main Instagram feeds, almost half of videos posted ran under 15 seconds in length.

Music options:

Instagram Reels must have been in the works on the DL for a long time, because their music library is surprisingly broad and up-to-date. If this is a deciding factor in your platform choice, Reels just might fulfill your expectations, as it provides a solid imitation of TikTok's original social music features.

Text options:

Your text options in Reels are the exact same as the tools in Instagram Stories: you can add text stickers, but you can't change the timing of your boxes like you can in TikTok. You'd need to use third-party apps to use TikTok-style text to your IG Reels videos.

Social feeds:

Here's the main difference between Reels and the rest of the apps on this list. Since it's a not a standalone app, Reels only exists inside of Instagram, and it only has one social feed in the Explore tab. However, it has an advantage over the others because your Reels videos exist in the Reels tab on your IG profile, where people can browse them while looking at your main IG content.

Monetization:

You can monetize your Reels content in only one of the ways you can monetize Instagram content in general: promotional posts. Elsewhere on Instagram, you are able to sell items, buy ads in IGTV, and gets tips from live streams, but so far, Reels hasn't added any independent monetization features.

3. Triller

Triller made huge headlines earlier this summer when major TikTok stars like Josh Richards and Noah Beck left for the under-the-radar musical video platform. While Triller hasn't copied TikTok's format and features as much as Reels or Byte, its primary purpose and musical focus are the very similar.  

Visual layout:

Triller's media viewing screen is probably the busiest of the bunch. Every time you see a video, you see three social feeds and the top tag along the upper edge, and creator info, music details, video descriptions, interactive options, and the navigation menu are all stacked at the bottom.

Max video length:

NONE. You can record videos of any length in the Triller app.

Music options:

Triller lists the music on your videos almost like a mini "Now Playing" screen at the bottom of the video viewer. Their own music catalog allows you to add songs just like you would in TikTok or Reels, but the fact that there's no time limit on your videos is designed to allow creators to post videos that use an entire song.

Text options:

Triller, unfortunately, gives you no options to add text to your videos. Their video descriptions are displayed slightly larger than they are in other apps, but you need to use another app like Kapwing in order to add any text to your video itself.

Social feeds:

In Triller, you can use three different feeds to find and watch videos: Following, Music, and Social. This is why Triller is likely the best place to go if you like TikTok's focus on music and dance trends, but their Social tab is there to catch up to TikTok's range of content.

Monetization:

Triller launched "Triller 7.0," their own monetization feature, in 2018, and since then top creators have been able to crowdfund money directly from their fans. One top creator made $50,000 from the feature, so it's safe to say that the donation-based system that Triller has put in place is able to get top creators some serious cash.

4. Likee

Likee is an interesting case: it now gets over 150 million monthly users, which makes it a formidable competitor to any app on this list, especially in the US market. But its parent company is also based in China, which makes it vulnerable to the same sort of scrutiny that has led TikTok to its precarious situation in America. Likee's biggest market was India before it was banned from the country along with TikTok – if TikTok is banned in the US, don't expect Likee to stay for much longer.

Visual layout:

Likee's visual layout, like many others on this list, is very nearly the exact same as TikTok's. There's one key difference, though: since the different tabs are found on the thumbnail browsing feed, the top of the viewer doesn't have different feed options.

Max video length:

15 seconds. It's nearly the shortest limit of any of these apps, but 15 seconds looks like a new standard for many social video platforms.

Music options:

Likee's built-in music library is fairly limited compared to other platforms like TikTok or Triller, but they have one big advantage: Likee lets you add "Local Music" to your videos, so you can use any music you have downloaded in your Music app for your videos.

Text options:

Likee's text options are really robust. Not only can you add multiple text boxes with precise timing, but you can also change their size, angle, font, style, color, and background.

Social feeds:

Likee has a ton of social feed features. Their main browse page is unique in this list, allowing you to scroll through a page of thumbnails, like Instagram, then entering the typical full-screen viewer within each tab. It has three groups: Popular, Following, and Live. The Explore page is a bit busy: it lists tons of trends, with many different entire pages to choose from at the top.  

Monetization:

Likee's monetization is far more visible than on any other platform. It puts more emphasis on Live content, where viewers can donate an in-app currency, much like on TikTok or Triller. But users can also see how many donations a creator has received when viewing their profile page, which makes monetization much more public than it is elsewhere.

5. Byte

Byte was released near the beginning of 2020 as the project of one of the creators of Vine. Initially touted as a "Vine successor," the platform actually seems more appropriate today as a replacement for TikTok. People have been gradually flocking to Byte since TikTok's fate became uncertain, so it's one of the frontrunners in the short-form social video race.

Visual layout:

Max video length:

15 seconds. Byte's creators set their video time limit in between the limits of TikTok and their former project Vine, but 15 seconds is on the short side of major social video platform limits in 2020.

Music options:

This is where Byte lags behind a lot of other platforms: they allow you to add songs from their own catalog, but their selection is really limited, doesn't focus on new or trending music, and doesn't let you search for the songs or artists you like. You can, however, use third-party apps like Kapwing to add any music to your videos before uploading to Byte.

Text options:

Byte's text options could be worse, but they could be a lot better, as well. You can add your own text boxes, as well as reposition & resize, them, but you can't rotate them, add backgrounds to them, change their color or font, or change their timing on your video.

Social feeds:

Byte features two social feeds, like most of the apps on this list: Following and "Your Mix." Also similar to TikTok, they feature trending collections in the Explore tab in the format of subreddits: things like /comedy, /memes, /lgbtq+, etc.

NOTE: Byte's social experience is far, far different from every other app on this list: the app doesn't publicly track followers. You can see how many followers your own account has in your "stats" page, but no other user's follower count is visible.

Monetization:

Monetization is what Byte is counting on in order to get people to make the switch from TikTok. They have instituted a partner program for top creators, who are determined by viewership brackets. Once you're made a Byte partner, you're part of the program that Byte says will give 100% of ad revenue directly to creators.

6. Clash

Clash was just launched by the other founding Vine alumnus, also intended to right what was seen as the monetization wrongs of TikTok. It has some ambitious goals, and has seen over 200k downloads, but it's far too soon to say how the app will fare in the long term.

Visual layout:

Clash's visual arrangement is almost a picture-perfect replica of TikTok. Really. They've changed their names & labels, but everything else is straight out of the TikTok book.

Max video length:

The maximum length for Clash videos is 21 seconds – it's a bit odd, but it's a fairly comfortable spot between the 15-second limit of Reels/Byte and TikTok's minute-long maximum.

Music options:

Here's where Clash really suffers compared to the other apps on this list. You can't add music to Clash videos in the app whatsoever. If you want to post videos with music on Clash, you'll need to repost videos from other platforms or add music to your clips using a third-party app.

Text options:

Clash is still fresh off the presses, but compared to the other apps on this list, it's little more than an empty shell of a creator platform. Another example why: it doesn't allow you to add any text, in any form, to your videos in the app. You can add a maximum of two hashtags to your video, along with a brief description, but if you want to add any text to your video itself, you'll need to use a third-party app.

Social feeds:

Clash's social feeds basically mirror the standard set by TikTok: "Now Serving" (their own version of the FYP) and a typical "Following" feed. They also provide a simple Explore page filled with top hashtags, in order from most to least popular – at the time of writing, #fyp was the number 2 trend, and #TikTok was number 5.

Monetization:

Clash was created with monetization in mind, but its options are fairly restrictive, and not quite as innovative as they claim. They plan on providing a "tips" system like TikTok and Triller, where users can purchase an in-app currency to then dole out to their favorite creators. They also (quite radically, on this point) are allowing their very top couple hundred creators to have equity in the company and become partial owners, but since this program will be restricted to only the top 200 or so, it won't have much of an impact on the bulk of its users.

7. Dubsmash

Dubsmash could be called the original TikTok, really. Entering the app market before even Triller, Dubsmash has been quite popular for years, especially in European markets. Right now, Facebook and Snapchat are even in talks to buy Dubsmash in order to pull even with their other rivals on this list.

Visual layout:

Dubsmash is yet another example of a visual layout that nearly mirrors TikTok's format, even though, strictly speaking, TikTok is the copycat app. The most notable difference between the two is the black bar at the bottom of Dubsmash's viewing screen. It doesn't really interfere, but it might turn users off a little bit at first.

Max video length:

10 seconds for music videos, no limit for uploaded videos, 1 minute for recorded videos. Sometimes it's surprising how much you can fit inside a 10-second video window, but Dubsmash is simply the most restrictive app on this list when it comes to video length. If you're looking for a musically focused Vine substitute, Dubsmash is the way to go, but for any other content, the length limit may get in the way.

Music options:

Dubsmash may be the most music-focused app on this list, as their "Create" page is dominated by sounds and songs, and the Record and Upload buttons are relegated to small icons in the corners. Similar to TikTok, you can record your own video, upload one from your camera roll, or choose a sound from their built-in library to start with. You can also add sounds from your camera roll, but if you want to add your own music to your Dubsmash content, you'll need to use a third-party app.

Text options:

Dubsmash has lots of text options: font, style, size, color, rotation, & position. But there's one key feature that's missing: timing. Popular TikTok video styles that show text boxes popping up during the video are impossible to make without third-party apps.

Social feeds:

Dubsmash's social feeds are typical for the apps on this list. They feature For You and Following tabs in the viewer, and the Explore tab shows top trending hashtags and popular creators. Their Record tab, however, also features top sounds.

Monetization:

There's no monetization path in Dubsmash, even though its creators have been suggesting that they would implement one for half a decade. Who knows – with the competitive stakes raised so high, they might launch their monetization opportunity (likely tip-based) in the near future.

NOTE: You must be at least 14 years old to join Dubsmash (they say). While crowds of people under 14 are doubtless using the app, their intention to keep younger users away probably has had an impact on the types of creators that are welcome on the platform.