TikTok Notes: a threat to Instagram’s dominance?

A cryptic notification shared by TikTok with its users has sparked interest online as the platform teases its next move. The message reads: “TikTok Notes, a new app for photo posts, is coming soon! Your existing and future public TikTok photo posts will be shown on TikTok Notes.” TikTok’s not usually the one to copy features from its competitors; in fact, it’s been the other way around for a while now.

After several leaks preceding the app’s arrival, TikTok Notes is now available in Canada and Australia for “limited testing”, according to the company. We tried it, and it looks pretty dormant for the moment, but it’s important to note that this is its testing period.

TikTok Notes is a separate, free photo-sharing app run by TikTok where users can share photos with written captions and browse a central feed of posts by people they follow. Of course, users can link their TikTok accounts to Notes to log in. In fact, when I tried logging in, it automatically recognised me with my TikTok username.

In the app description, TikTok describes Notes as “a lifestyle platform that offers informative photo-text content about people’s lives, where you can see individuals sharing their travel tips, daily recipes.”

While the posts resemble Instagram’s post and caption format, the central feed where users can “discover” posts also looks like Pinterest or TikTok’s search feed.

Forrester research director Mike Proulx stated on X that while TikTok has yet to announce a global release date, the new app could be launched globally very soon. “The notification TikTok users received makes it sound all but certain that TikTok Notes will have an imminent launch. It comes at a precarious time for the app where we’re seeing TikTok usage begin to plateau while Reels usage increases,” says Proulx. Even though TikTok is not going to disappear or become obsolete, there has been a stop in growth aggravated by its uncertain future in the US as creators hurry to diversify their presence on alternative platforms.

Proulx says it will be a challenge for TikTok to amass a user base at scale from scratch if TikTok Notes is launched as a standalone app. “But if TikTok uses Meta’s playbook for Threads, it can mobilise its existing users to onboard them to the new app,” he says. “But like Threads, the key will be creating a compelling enough experience to get them to stick around TikTok Notes beyond the initial curiosity factor.” Proulx says “the copycat phenomenon” is rampant across social media platforms and, when done right, can pay off. When Instagram copied Snapchat with its stories feature, it eventually became more popular than Instagram’s feed itself. But copying a similar stories feature didn’t work out when Twitter did the same. The platform eventually dumped its stories version in August 2021. “When social media features all start to become ubiquitous, what differentiates one social media platform from another narrows,” Proulx says. “It comes down to community, user experience, and, yes, algorithms.” So, when can we expect a launch? While TikTok Notes’ release date is still unknown, the platform is yet to comment on the launch publicly. “As part of our continued commitment to innovating the TikTok experience, we’re exploring ways to empower our community to create and share their creativity with photos and text in a dedicated space for those formats,” TikTok said in a statement. Only time will tell if the platform can genuinely take on Instagram or if, just like Meta’s latest launch – the thread is too weak to hold.