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TikTok lookalike Zynn brings Chinese video app rivalry to US

TikTok lookalike Zynn brings Chinese video app rivalry to US

Zynn‘s interface is a near-clone of TikTok, allowing users to view a continuous feed of short videos. Users also earn points for simply watching videos, which can then be converted into cash. This photo illustration take on June 5, 2020 shows the Apple App Store download page for the app Zynn, a new Chinese owned video platform, in Washington, DC. (AFP) Chinese short video app makers have taken their rivalry overseas, with TikTok facing stiff competition from a newcomer that has surged in popularity abroad –– by paying users to keep scrolling.

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Zynn, a product of China's number-two video app maker Kuaishou, launched in May became the most popular free app in the US Apple App Store just a month later

With Zynn, Kuaishou is trying to dethrone TikTok, the app by its Beijing-based competitor Bytedance that has become a worldwide sensation

Zynn's interface is a near-clone of TikTok, allowing users to view a continuous feed of short videos featuring other users dancing or performing stunts to upbeat music

But unlike TikTok, Zynn promises more than just entertainment

Cash earning app 

Zynn, which is not available in China, rewards users in the US and Canada with cash when they invite friends to download the app –– up to $20 per invite, depending on how active the friend is on the app

Users also earn points for simply watching videos, which can then be converted into cash

Zynn's model is familiar to users in China, where startups have thrown millions of yuan in gifts and cash at users in order to grab a larger share of the market than competitors offering nearly identical services

Nasdaq-listed news aggregator Qutoutiao was among the first apps to offer users cash rewards in what it calls “loyalty programmes” that “cost-effectively acquire new users”

“It requires people who are sensitive to small financial incentives of which there are plenty in China's vast inland rural areas,” Shanghai-based mobile technology expert Matthew Brennan told AFP news agency

Kuaishou is taking a gamble in exporting its model to North America, where few apps have managed to build long-term audiences by paying people to use them

Success will depend on whether the main attraction of the app is the money up for grabs, or whether payment is “merely a secondary 'side benefit' to using Zynn“, Rui Ma, a tech advisor and host of the Tech Buzz China podcast, told AFP

Most online reviews of Zynn are focused on the cash reward system, with reviewers either complaining about being unable to withdraw their winnings or grateful for the amounts they've made off the app

'Product only for the US'

Kuaishou has chosen a “smart” time for Zynn's debut, with many young people stuck at home because of Covid-19, and with the summer holidays approaching, said Man-Chung Cheung, an analyst at Insider Intelligence

But in the long run, retaining users will depend on Zynn's “ability to attract top content creators, talent and brands to share videos”, Cheung told AFP

Kuaishou will also have to contend with rising ChinaUS tensions, which have already put rival TikTok and other Chinese tech companies under increased scrutiny from the US government

US officials have warned that TikTok, which has denied any ties with the Chinese government, could become another tool exploited by Chinese intelligence services

Zynn has sought to downplay its Chinese origins, with its website offering little information about its background and giving an address in Palo Alto, California

Zynn spokesman Rocky Zhang confirmed that Kuaishou is behind the upstart app

Zynn is a product only for the US, and we launched Zynn for the US,” he told AFP

Zhang said Zynn plans to continue paying users in the long term, but will shift towards rewarding “content creators” in the future, while generating revenue through advertising

Old rivals

A years-long rivalry between massive Chinese tech companies lies behind Kuaishou's new foray across the Pacific and into North America

Kuaishou is backed by Tencent, the Chinese tech giant behind payment and social media app WeChat, which has long sought to expand its share of the short-video market

The Chinese short-video industry is expected to generate nearly $14 billion in advertising revenue by 2021, according to Daxue Consulting

Tencent has launched a number of short-video apps of its own, but none have reached the level of popularity enjoyed by Kuaishou and TikTok's Chinese version, Douyin

Kuaishou in February said it had reached 300 million daily active users, just behind Douyin, which said it hit 400 million users in January

In May, Kuaishou sued Douyin for redirecting searches for “Kuaishou” on a third-party Chinese app store to adds for the Bytedance app, a court in Beijing said

When asked about the similarity between TikTok and Zynn, Zhang said the app was not “targeting any brands existing on the market”

Source: AFP