With the fate of TikTok hanging in balance in the US, a number of rival American apps have been climbing the download charts. But the top contender for TikTok’s spot is actually another app from a Chinese company.
Likee, owned by Chinese social video company Joyy, has been downloaded more than 7 million times over the past six months, according to US research firm Apptopia.
This is still a far cry from the more than 47 million downloads that TikTok saw in the same period. But Likee dwarfs other US apps that have recently seen a sudden surge in interest. Another competitor is Triller, which amassed just over 2.5 million downloads since early June. Byte, the six-month-old successor to the once-beloved Vine, had even fewer downloads.
Much like TikTok, Likee comes with simple tools that allow even amateurs to quickly produce compelling videos. With just a few taps on the phone, users can pick from a swarm of ready-made filters and adjust the sound and speed of a video—something that not long ago might have required the skills of a professional videographer.
Likee belongs to Bigo Technology, a Singapore-based company co-founded by a Chinese tech veteran handpicked by Joyy’s chairman. The Guangzhou-based Joyy has since acquired Bigo.
In an interview with the South China Morning Post in April, Bigo co-founder Jason Hu insisted that it’s impossible for Likee to achieve TikTok’s level of success given their different financial resources. He also took care to emphasize Bigo’s physical distance from China.
“Our data is not under the control of the Chinese government,” Hu said.
That hasn’t stopped the Indian government from categorizing Likee as a Chinese app. It’s now among dozens of apps, including TikTok, that are banned in the country.
Apps with Chinese ties are also facing headwinds in the US.
While TikTok has repeatedly said it only stores American user data in the US and Singapore, these claims have done little to placate the Trump administration.
Besides threatening to ban TikTok in the US if the app isn’t sold to another company by September 15, the Trump Administration has since threatened to take action against WeChat and other unnamed Chinese software companies. TikTok’s owner ByteDance is currently in talks to sell the app’s business in several countries to Microsoft.
But there is still hope for Likee, according to Apptopia analyst Adam Blacker.
“If US TikTok operations end up being sold to a US company, it’s hard to imagine Likee will be banned here,” he wrote.
This article was first published by Abacus News.