Originality is a dead language, at least in the world of social media apps. TikTok’s held up as the most popular app for its curated, AI-based content feed, but it’s realized there is a growing market of young people who are tired of scrolling through celebrities’ incoherent buzzing and algorithm-based feeds. Unfortunately, instead of creating something new, its opted to straight up steal another company’s idea for use in its own app.
The ByteDance-owned company said Thursday that they are experimenting with a new feature called TikTok Now over the coming weeks, and it’s now accessible by U.S. users through the app and in other regions through a separate TikTok Now app. Just like the once-a-day photo app BeReal, TikTok Now says users are prompted to capture what they’re doing at a moment using both front and rear cameras. Users will receive daily prompts for a photo or 10-second video to share with friends and family.
If that new feature rings any bells, that’s because it’s exactly what the app BeReal already does. BeReal has promoted itself as an app that runs in the opposite direction of curated algorithm-based feeds, instead asking users to send a photo or a short video to their friends, and family daily. There’s no filters or followers, and photos are taken at random times in the day using both the front and rear phone cameras.
BeReal came onto the scene in 2020 and is currently listed as the #1 most downloaded social networking app on the Apple App Store and remains popular on the Google Play Store. It’s a far cry from the billions upon billions who have collectively downloaded TikTok and Instagram, but research firm Apptopia wrote last month that BeReal has been downloaded 43.3 million times since December 2019, seeing a huge jump in downloads in 2022.
BeReal’s founder Alexis Barreyat and BeReal itself declined to comment on this story or on other apps copying its designs, with the company saying they were not doing interviews at this time.
It seems the world’s most popular social media app, made famous for its AI-based feed, is trying to offer more localized and curated content. TikTok also recently let it slip they were working on “Nearby” feeds to show you video that hits closer to home, which is a feature already employed by the likes of Snapchat through its Snap map and Instagram with its photo map feature.
TikTok wrote that TikTok Now users can send their videos to mutual friends but can also opt to share with the wider TikTok community, though the default is for friends only. Still, the ability to share these quick videos to a wide audience is a marked distinction between BeReal. The French-made app has made public statements that it wants to capture “real life… free from the need to create, cultivate, and amass influence.”
Of course, Instagram is also apparently looking to copycat the popular French-made app. Leaked photos reveal the Meta-owned photo app is working on something currently named “IG Candid Challenges” that prompts users to take a candid photo at different times in the day. And if you think that sounds exactly like BeReal, you’re not the only one.
While Instagram is trying to sweep up any new and popular idea on the market and is already doing its damndest to copy TikTok through its proliferation of Reels and short-form video, it’s struggled to get its users interested in those new features.
Knowing that BeReal has only started to become popular this year shows just how dialed in the world’s biggest social networks are on maintaining dominance. In effect, we’re reaching a point where the biggest social apps are in a rat race to compete for ideas, whichever ideas seem to be catching on among the younger demographics. If only these companies would realize more people would appreciate apps that didn’t harvest their data, then maybe we wouldn’t feel so bad about their streaks of unoriginality.