Snapchat built a clone of TikTok to take on Reels because everything is terrible

Snapchat sign-in screen
Snapchat sign-in screen (Image credit: Hayato Huseman / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Snap today launched Spotlight, a new short-story format inspired by TikTok.
  • The company is also offering a "share of more than $1 million" to creators who post good content.
  • Spotlight is rolling out today in a few countries including the U.S., UK, France, and Canada, among others. It'll hit other countries "soon."

Snap is taking a leaf from TikTok's playbook as it launches Spotlight, a new space in the Snapchat app where users can find an endless scrolling stream of short-form video content.

Like TikTok and its competitors from Google and Facebook, the company will use an algorithm to recommend content it thinks you'd be interested in, keeping the endless scrolling feeling like it's truly endless — at least in theory. Snap is also adding new tools to help creators shoot engaging videos. It's improving caption support, adding a new continuous shooting mode for longer video content, and now lets users trim singular Snaps.

Snap is doing things differently from TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram though. The company prides itself on privacy, and it's building Spotlight with that in mind. You won't see likes or comments on Spotlight content, nor will you be able to follow most profiles. As you can do on regular Snapchat though, public profiles — the kind used by influencers and celebrities — can still be followed for regular updates.

Of course, one could argue that the lack of the engagement and feedback that come with TikTok and Reels could dull the appeal of Spotlight for creators. Snap is offering a fairly convincing counterargument — cold hard cash. "Submit your best video Snaps to Spotlight for the opportunity to earn a share of more than $1 million that we're distributing to creators every day!" the company broadcasts both in the app and in the announcement. Axios notes that Snap will only reward original posters, so users who reupload viral content will not be rewarded from this pool of cash.

Spotlight is live in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, and France. Snap will roll it out in more countries "soon."

Snapchat has been a source of inspiration for social media apps, from stories to ephemeral photos, it's safe to say the app has lost its core USP to competitors. That said, it's not like the company doesn't have a winning strategy. The company still performs strongly among its target 13-24 demographic, and its earnings reports show consistent YoY growth. The addition of sticky features like Spotlight may help further its continued growth.

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Despite inevitable feature creep, Snapchat still remains good at its core functionaility, sharing forgettable images with friends quickly.

Michael Allison