Lots of TikTok videos Don't start from scratch, not even the competition. Tick tack it's all about remixes where users record a new video to recontextualize audio from someone else's clip or to ripple an existing meme or concept. This only works because TikToks had time to build a huge collection of content from which they could be inspired.
The developers will not be able to start with TikTok copycats, including Facebook Lasso and Instagram Reels testing in Brazil. Direct competitors like Triller and Dubsmash are running to build their archives. YouTube short films that The Information reports are under development today only have a chance if Google allows users to use the 5 billion videos that are already watched on YouTube every day.
This is the power of what I call the "content network effect": each content brings added value to the rest. This is TikTok.
You probably know the traditional network effect – "A phenomenon where a product or service gains value when more people use it. “It is not only the network itself that is gaining in value, but also the value that is made available to every user. Today's best social networks are shining examples. The more people there are on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, the more people you can connect and the more material their relevant algorithms can use to fill your feeds.
If you had to choose between two identical social networks, you'll likely choose that with more friends or developers already on board. Network effects increase the switching costs for switching to another network. Even if it offers better features, fewer ads or less misinformation and bullying, you are unlikely to leave a robust network behind and switch to a sparser network. This makes it difficult to disrupt scaled social networks. All top companies have been around for almost a decade or more.
With the exception of TikTok. The Chinese music / video app has managed to demonstrate a new concept of the "content network effect". In this case, every video uploaded to the app makes every future potential video more valuable. This is because the entire content of TikTok serves as remix feed for the rest. Every song, dance, joke, prank, and monologue generates resources that other creators can use. It is a bottomless source of inspiration.
Remixability, the ultimate creative tool
TikTok produces the remix culture by making it easy to "use that sound". Tap a video's audio button and it's yours. Click through and you'll see all the other videos using it. TikTok even offers an entire search engine for sorting sounds by categories such as trending, greatest hits, love, gaming and travel. Sometimes remixes are based on an idea rather than an audio. #FlipTheSwitch sees couples swap clothes instantly when the lights go out, and has collected more than 3.6 billion videos in over 500,000 remix versions of the video.
You can even duet with the original creator while sharing your and his video side by side. A solo performance becomes a refrain when more duets are connected. In the meantime, remixes of remixes of remixes offer an esoteric reward for hardcore users who recognize how a gag has developed or has turned into absurdity.
Other apps have produced video responses, hashtags, quote tweets, surveys and chain letters, as well as other ways for content to interact or iterate in the past. And there were always parodies. However, TikTok demonstrates the ability to forge a social app with a content network effect at its core.
By facilitating remixes, you can lower the bar for creating user-generated content. You don't have to be amazingly creative or original to do something fun. Each person's life experiences shape their perspective, which could enable them to interpret an idea in a new way.
What started with someone ripping audio from two people singing "Don't be suspicious" while sneaking through a graveyard on the Parks & Recs TV show resulted in people lip-syncing it as they tried Escape her child's room without waking her and left the house in clothes, stole from her sister's closet, tried to keep a llama as a pet, and photoshopped to look bigger. Unless someone has already done the audio clip work, there is nothing that can inspire and empower others to engage with it.
TikTok's archive against the world
That's why I wrote that Mark Zuckerberg misunderstood the enormous threat posed by TikTok after the CEO said to Facebook employees: "I think about TikTok as if it were Explore for Stories." Facebook and Instagram had great success cloning Snapchat stories because they only had to copy the functions. Stories are autobiographical vlogging. All you need are the creative tools that Instagram has and rebuilt Facebook and share people of whom the apps had billions.
However, TikTok is not about sharing what you're up to. Stories that usually start all over again because each user's life is different. It is micro entertainment with a content network effect. If TikTok competitors offer people the same video recording capabilities and sales potential, they still lack the archive of the source material.
Facebook's lasso looks exactly like TikTok, but has not gained momentum since it started in November 2018. Instagram Reels intelligently copies TikTok's remixing tools. However, if the Brazilian tests go well and it finally starts in English, it will start with flat feet.
On YouTube launches shorts as Alex Heath and Jessica Toonkel of The Information report that it is planned to bury it in its main app before the end of the year. That could make it impossible to compete with a dedicated app like TikTok that opens directly to your For You page. The only salvation would be if YouTube unlocked its entire database of videos for remixing.
Thanks to its position as the default location for hosting videos and its searchability experience that Facebook and Instagram lack, YouTube shorts could at least contain all the necessary ingredients. Given YouTube's uninterrupted social failures, from Google+ to YouTube stories to its dozen Deadpool messaging apps, YouTube may not have the skills to combine them.
Other social networks should consider how the concept applies to them. Could Facebook turn your friends' photos into collage material? Could you share thematic collections of your favorite posts with Instagram? The remix culture is not disappearing, nor is the value of promoting content network effects. With video consumption surpassing professional production, remixes are the way the world is entertained and how amateurs can contribute creations that are worth going viral.