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TikTok's New Social App Whee Struggles to Gain Traction Despite Global Launch

ByteDance's Whee faces uphill battle with minimal downloads and marketing efforts, raising questions amidst TikTok's uncertain future in the U.S.
June 28, 2024

TikTok, the social media giant known for its viral short-form videos, recently launched a new app named Whee, aiming to carve out a space in the competitive world of photo-sharing and messaging. Positioned as an Instagram alternative, Whee allows users to take photos, apply filters, and engage in messaging with friends. However, its journey so far has been marked by challenges rather than triumphs, as revealed by app intelligence firm Appfigures.

Despite its global rollout on June 18 across 71 countries, Whee struggled to make a significant impact on the Apple App Store. The app's lack of visibility stemmed from a notable absence of marketing efforts, including the use of Apple's Search Ads, a key strategy for boosting app discoverability. As a result, Whee failed to crack the Top Free Apps chart or secure a spot among the top 500 social apps in major markets immediately after its launch.

Data from Appfigures indicates that Whee garnered a modest 13,000 downloads on iOS and approximately 10,000 on Android as of the latest count. Interestingly, its primary downloads came from markets like Malaysia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Peru, and Indonesia, though in relatively small numbers. For instance, Malaysia accounted for 2,400 downloads, while Indonesia saw just 800 installs, suggesting minimal penetration despite being in the Top 500 in less competitive markets.

User feedback on Whee has been mixed, with an average global rating of 3.6 out of 5 across 31 App Store reviews, reflecting tepid reception. Moreover, ByteDance, the parent company behind TikTok, has refrained from commenting on Whee's strategic direction or future plans, leaving industry observers to speculate about its intended role amidst TikTok's uncertain fate in the U.S.

The timing of Whee's launch raises eyebrows, coming shortly after President Biden signed legislation threatening TikTok's operations in the U.S., pending legal challenges. This backdrop suggests that Whee could serve as a contingency plan for ByteDance, allowing the company to maintain a social media presence stateside should TikTok face regulatory setbacks.

ByteDance's efforts to diversify beyond TikTok are not unprecedented. Earlier ventures like Lemon8, launched in 2023, aimed to replicate Instagram's success but faced initial struggles despite influencer marketing initiatives. However, Lemon8 has since gained traction, becoming the No. 2 Lifestyle app in the U.S. with nearly 7.7 million installs, indicating a potential slow-burn success strategy for ByteDance.

In addition to Whee and Lemon8, ByteDance has experimented with other social apps like CapCut and briefly explored ventures like TikTok Now and TikTok Notes, reflecting its ambition to broaden its footprint in the competitive social media landscape.

As Whee navigates its early challenges, ByteDance's ability to leverage its massive user base from TikTok remains a crucial factor in determining its future success. Whether Whee can evolve from a niche offering into a significant player in global social media remains to be seen, but its journey underscores the complexities of launching new apps in a fiercely competitive digital ecosystem.

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