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TikTok Photos might be the Instagram alternative nobody asked for

Published Mar 12th, 2024 11:48AM EDT
Creator profiles and the comments section open next to the TikTok video you're playing on the Vision Pro.
Image: TikTok

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TikTok is one of the most popular and controversial social networks out there. The video app forced Instagram and YouTube to copy this new form of content sharing. That’s how we got Reels and Shorts features in those apps. Meta and Google tried to compete with the short video format TikTok made popular by copying the popular app.

Meanwhile, the US government has been trying to ban TikTok nationwide, and the app already can’t be used on certain government-issued devices. Similar actions have been taken in the EU.

While some politicians worry about data privacy and the potential influence of the Chinese government, and while a larger ban might be on the table, TikTok is moving forward. Code found in a recent version of the app indicates that TikTok is preparing to launch a new TikTok Photos app that will apparently rival Instagram.

Instagram might support short videos like TikTok, but the app’s core feature is photo sharing. It’s what made Instagram popular and convinced Meta (then Facebook) to buy Instagram.

TikTok doesn’t have that functionality. The app’s main focus is to share short video clips, though you can share photos as well. TikTok Photos might fix that, assuming the app launches soon.

It’s unclear when it might debut, but it looks like the main TikTok app is being prepped for the new release. TheSpAndroid inspected the code of the latest TikTok version for Android and found numerous references to TikTok Photos.

The language in the code indicates this is a separate app. Here’s a line of code that makes that clear:

n1:text= “TikTok Photos will be launched soon, we hope to help you gain new audiences in the new app \n\n If the switch is on, we’ll sync your public photos to the new app, whether you close the pop-up or not.%s”

Moreover, there’s other language in the code that implies TikTok Photos is a different app. TikTok will let you “Open TikTok Photos,” or “Get TikTok Photos” if you don’t have it installed. 

Moreover, TikTok will let you share content to TikTok Photos. That’s an indication that video content from TikTok, or photos posted on TikTok, might be shared on TikToK Photos. 

The code reveals that you’ll also be able to sync your posts to TikTok Photos. This indicates users will be able to quickly port their TikTok profiles to TikTok Photos. This feature will surely help TikTok Photos surge in the App Store and Google Play once it’s available to download.

There’s no indication of when TikTok Photos will launch. But I suspect a release can’t be that far away if TikTok is ready to place all those TikTok Photos references in the main app. Not to mention that a TikTok ban is still a theoretical risk for the company. Having TikTok Photos out soon could be an alternative to that. 

All of that is just speculation for now, of course. What seems to be clear is that TikTok wants to take on Instagram with a photo-centric app. 

I will remind you that TikTok launched a dedicated Vision Pro app recently, which indicates the company isn’t afraid to test new concepts and designs. TikTok Photos could be part of that push. And on that note, I’d bet that a TikTok Photos app for Vision Pro would also be available once the mobile app launches.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.