Byte, a TikTok competitor, has been purchased by Clash, another TikTok competitor. Clash plans to merge its monetization features into Byte and ultimately rebrand the app under the Clash name. The company hopes to make a short-form video app with rich monetization tools that allow creators to easily get paid.
Clash co-founder Brendon McNerney told The New York Times that the two apps will be released “together as one product” within a few months.
“The market for apps that let you create and post videos from your phone has become extremely saturated. There are many competitors with similar (or better) feature sets, and far more distribution,” Byte creator Dom Hofmann, who was previously a co-founder of the video app Vine, wrote in a forum post today explaining why the app had been sold.
The combination of the two apps speaks to the immense challenge any company will face going up against TikTok — let alone an independent company without a huge corporate backer and an existing network of apps to prop it up. A ton of TikTok-alikes have popped up throughout 2020, and the smaller apps now face competition not just from TikTok but from TikTok clones built into huge apps like Instagram and Snapchat, too.
Clash doesn’t see itself as competing directly with TikTok, Clash co-founder P.J. Leimgruber told The Verge. Instead, Clash is trying to offer a supplemental service where creators can connect with — and get paid by — their top fans.
“We want to change the way creators monetize,” McNerney told The Verge. “So often creators have played this game where they have to sacrifice their content or schedule just to figure out how to pay rent.” Clash plans to offer features like tipping and recurring payments inside of the rebranded Byte app, he said. McNerney said that Byte has been installed 4.5 million times since launch and that Clash reached half a million installs as of the fall. He declined to share the acquisition price.
Byte was originally intended as a successor to Vine, before any one app had really cracked video on mobile. Hofmann started work on it in 2017, but by the time Byte finally launched, in January 2020, TikTok had already blown up and was known for making stars with an audience beyond its app.
Throughout 2020, Byte maintained a small and quirky community, and it even set up a program to pay some creators for their videos. But the app never broke out into the mainstream, and its biggest surge seemed to come when TikTok creators were looking for a backup in case then-President Donald Trump followed through with his plans to ban the app in the US. The ban was held up in court, and interest in TikTok competitors seemed to die down quickly.
Clash is a newer app, having quietly launched in beta in late July. It works pretty much the same as TikTok, opening onto a main feed where you can swipe through video after video. Among its big hooks are that one co-founder, McNerney, first became known as a star on Vine.
Going forward, Hofmann writes that Byte needs to “be built upon a clear vision that leads to differentiating features and rapid improvements.” Hofmann will stick around as an adviser to Clash, but he — and most of Byte’s team, it seems — will be moving to new jobs at Discord.
Update January 26th, 5:55PM ET: This story has been updated with new details from McNerney and Leimgruber on Clash’s plan for Byte.