If you’ve visited the App Store on your iPhone over the past few days, you might have noticed an app you’ve never heard of before occupying the number one spot on the charts.
The app, , is a brand-new, short-form video platform that launched earlier this month on Apple’s App Store and Google Play. So what is it? A glance at Zynn’s barebones shows nothing more than links to the aforementioned app stores and a few screenshots of the app, which appears to be very reminiscent of TikTok.
Looking a little deeper into this new app, it becomes clear how the company’s doing this. Zynn isn’t just a run-of-the-mill TikTok clone; there’s a billion-dollar business behind it which has long rivaled TikTok’s parent company, Bytedance. Also, Zynn’s paying users just to use its app.
If you download Zynn and sign up, one of the first prompts you’re greeted with is a pop-up that informs you that $1 has just been placed into your account. Refer a friend to Zynn and you’ll make $20 bucks. For every five friends you refer, you get an extra $10. Scroll through the Zynn video feed and you’ll also accumulate points which transfer into pocket change, adding to your monetary totals.
As Turner Novak, a general partner at Gelt Venture Capital, on Twitter, Zynn seems to be a pyramid referral scheme. Even the options presented when you’re ready to withdraw your “Zynn earnings” appear to purposefully make it difficult to take your money and walk away.
If this is all you know about Zynn, you might get the impression that it’s a fly-by-night scam that blew up thanks to viral marketing. But, if you take a look at the app developer behind the platform, Owlii, you’ll find a legit tech company that’s even been backed by venture capital.
Kuaishou is one of TikTok’s biggest competitors in China. It’s the second most popular short-form video app, right behind Douyin — which is what China’s version of TikTok is called. According to The Information, Kuaishou more than 300 million daily active users in China. The company has even sued Bytedance in the country claiming “unfair competition.”
Just this past December, Kuaishou was valued at $28 billion in a financing round that included some of the biggest Chinese tech companies like Baidu and Tencent. The company earned $5.7 billion in revenue last year.
With that kind of backing and a monetized user acquisition model, it seems pretty clear that Kuaishou is going after TikTok’s U.S. market dominance with Zynn.
So is TikTok’s time up? Probably not, judging by the activity happening on Zynn right now.
While many videos on Zynn are full of comments, the app’s lacking in actual visual content. But, if Zynn does manage to bring more legit creators on board, it’s possible this app can succeed in taking on TikTok where others have .