Hey, remember how a few weeks back we reported on the sudden rise of TikTok clone Zynn, which is partly funded by the Chinese rival of TikTok's parent company?
As a brief summary, Zynn is an almost direct copy of TikTok, and is funded by Kuaishou, which is a rival app for Douyin (the Chinese version of TikTok). Kuaishou has also been funded, in part, by Tencent, which is the biggest social media company in China, and is working to fend off rising competition from TikTok's parent company ByteDance.
So there are a lot of moving parts to Zynn's sudden arrival in the US market - but what's shot Zynn to the top of the app charts is that it's using, essentially, a pyramid scheme as a growth tactic. When you watch videos in the app, you earn money, while you can also boost your in-app earnings by getting your friends to also download Zynn. Those earnings can then be used to buy gift cards, and even, reportedly, transferred through to PayPal - so it's, again, like TikTok, but with the option to also earn money through usage.
Which sounds questionable already - but now Zynn seemingly been caught out in even more questionable tactic.
According to Wired, Zynn has been removed from the Google Play Store amid accusations that it's been stealing people's content from other apps. Zynn remains available in the App Store for now, but Wired notes that Apple is also investigating the app.
Now, it's not unusual for people to replicate popular accounts in new apps, and even steal their content - and it wouldn't be surprising, given the financial incentive, to see this happen on Zynn. But as Wired reports, there's a more concerning element at play in this case:
"Zynn officially launched in the Apple App Store on May 7th, and was first installed by Google Play users on May 5th, according to Sensor Tower. Many of the impersonator accounts [however] uploaded their first posts on February 19th. The significance of that date isn’t clear, and Zynn did not respond to a request for comment sent to an email address listed on its website."
So it seems, at least based on this evidence, that the duplicate videos must have been uploaded by Zynn staff, possibly in an attempt to fill it with engaging content, in order to maximize its performance.
To be clear, Google hasn't said that this is why Zynn was removed from the Google Play store, but Wired provides a range of examples of influencers who've had their content re-posted to Zynn, under profiles in their name, without their knowledge.
That's a pretty significant concern - as noted, there's already something about Zynn's growth hacking that feels not quite right, and seems likely, at best, that it'll attract a range of scammers looking to cheat its system in order to get as much money from the app as they can.
Stealing content from other apps could cause a sudden shut down of the rising app - and while people will still be active in the app, and as noted, you can still download it on iOS, if an investigation finds that Zynn has knowingly done this, that will bring a lot of scrutiny, and pressure on the app.
Zynn could, however, remove all the offending content and be reinstated, this could be a minor bump in the road in the broader scheme. But the reputational hit might be more significant. People are already attached to TikTok, they have connections and networks within the app. Zynn's cash giveaway is it's only true lure - and that may well work, but it could also see it banned entirely, while additionally bringing more scrutiny onto Chinese-owned apps.
As noted, the app remains under investigation, and is not available in the Google Play Store. Maybe the short-form video app battle will have to wait.
UPDATE (6/16): Zynn has now also been removed from the App Store.