Reddit Swallows Dubsmash, TikTok's Closest Competitor

Illustration for article titled Reddit Swallows Dubsmash, TikTok's Closest Competitor
Photo: Tali Arbel (AP)

Reddit is buying up TikTok’s biggest competitor in the U.S., Dubsmash, in a deal with undisclosed terms, the company announced on Monday.

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In the announcement, Reddit wrote that Dubsmash has a “beautiful and fun product that enables their users to create unique, dynamic, interactive content” and “is aligned with Reddit’s own mission of bringing community and belonging to everyone in the world.” Dubsmash will continue to operate as normal, though the deal will give Reddit access to its new subsidiary’s video tech and userbase.

The Dubsmash acquisition makes natural sense for Reddit, unlike the ongoing nightmare of business software giant Oracle’s efforts to buy a massive stake of TikTok—a company which is in another industry entirely and which is only considering a deal because the Trump administration made threats over its Chinese ownership. Reddit has had major success with its streaming experiment, the Reddit Public Access Network, and it recently moved forward with plans to make RPAN a 24/7 service available to all users. However, most other video content on the site has to be externally hosted.

Dubsmash is growing quickly and is now second only to TikTok in terms of short-form video app installs in the U.S., according to TechCrunch. It’s doing particularly well with women as well as Black and Latino users (who have sometimes been the actual source of viral TikTok memes.)

Suchit Dash, Dubsmash’s co-founder and CEO, told the Wall Street Journal the app was focusing on “a different side of the internet.” About 70% of its users are female, Dash said, and the company claims that a quarter of all Black teens in the U.S. are Dubsmash users. Data from earlier this year by analytics firm App Annie showed that Dubsmash has around 27% of the U.S. short-form video market by installs, with over a billion views per month.

Reddit has a long and well-documented history of harboring racist users and communities—CEO Steve Huffman even said that “obvious open racism, including slurs” wasn’t against its rules in 2018—that its executives recently said they would redouble efforts to rectify. Earlier this year, the moderators of over 650 subreddits who said they represented some 200 million users wrote an open letter stating the “problem of Reddit’s leadership supporting and providing a platform for racist users and hateful communities has long been an issue.” The moderators demanded more proactive termination of racist subreddits and a “sitewide policy against racism, slurs, and hate speech.”

Co-founder Alexis Ohanian resigned around the same time and asked that his board seat be filled by a Black person; the seat was eventually filled by venture capitalist Michael Siebel, who has championed diversity in the tech industry. In the announcement, Reddit tried to draw a clear link between its belated effort to crack down on toxic communities and the diversity of Dubsmash’s userbase.

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Dubsmash is a “welcoming platform for creators and users who are under-represented in social media,” Reddit wrote.

According to the Journal, Huffman said that the acquisition will jump-start Reddit’s efforts to compete in video, particularly by giving it access to advanced video editing tools it would otherwise need to build for itself.

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“The cost of video keeps going down, the technology for recording and encoding it keeps getting better and better, and on the advertising side, video ads are more effective,” Huffman told the paper. “They’re more visceral and engaging.”

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