Facebook is determined to heap the pressure onto TikTok wherever it can, and this week, The Social Network has launched a new test of a feed of short-form video clips in its main app, exclusively in the Indian market, where TikTok is currently banned.
As you can see in the above screenshots, posted by user Roneet Michael on Twitter (and shared by Matt Navarra), Facebook is now testing a 'Short video' stream within the News Feed, which includes the familiar, TikTok vertical UX.
Facebook's also added prompts to help users add their own short video clips.
Updates on Facebook's Short Video.— Roneet Michael (@roneetm) August 15, 2020
You can upload video up to 26 seconds. Videos longer than can be trimmed manually.
You can write custom text on videos and choose at what time should the text appear.
All the videos are "Public" by default.
cc: @MattNavarra pic.twitter.com/KJMR9R47BH
Facebook confirmed the test to TechCrunch, saying that:
“We’re always testing new creative tools so we can learn about how people want to express themselves. Short-form videos are extremely popular and we are looking at new ways to provide this experience for people to connect, create and share on Facebook.”
With TikTok now out of the Indian market for more than six weeks, its a legitimate query as to whether it will ever be able to get back in, and re-establish its presence in the emerging region - which, at the time of the ban, was TikTok's largest single user market outside of China.
Facebook's certainly trying to make that difficult. As you may recall, a week after India initially announced its ban on Chinese apps, including TikTok, Facebook-owned Instagram launched its TikTok-cloning Reels functionality in the Indian market, which had previously only been available in France, Germany and Brazil.
But Instagram is not as big a deal in India as it is in other regions. At last check, Instagram had 100 million active users in India, versus TikTok's reported 200 million at the time of its banning.
But Facebook has more than 300 million users in the Indian region. As such, by adding TikTok replacement tools in its two top apps, that could see more users stay within Facebook's eco-system, as opposed to looking elsewhere for TikTok alternatives. And if creators find they can make money on Facebook, they might just keep posting, bringing more audience, expanding market share. And again, making it much harder to TikTok to ever come back - which it is working to do.
But of course, Facebook isn't the only competitor looking to replace TikTok in India.
As TechCrunch has also reported, YouTube is giving more Indian users access to its own TikTok-like 'Shorts' feature as it seeks to gather up its share of the Indian TikTok refugees.
That, again, will make it even harder to TikTok to make it back - and you would also expect that TikTok will be waiting on negotiations over its potential sale to a US-owned company before pushing ahead with significant negotiation steps with possible Indian suitors as well.
That means more time out of the market, and more time for Facebook and YouTube to steal its former users away.
Six weeks is a long time in the tech sector, and it may take another six weeks to establish the next stage for the company.
Three months of no TikTok will mean significant habitual changes.
Will they be too much for TikTok to overcome, and win back its Indian audience?
It'll be interesting to see what comes next in the great TikTok divide.