TikTok owner ByteDance is testing an Instagram competitor called Whee

The big picture: Despite being targeted by regulatory authorities and governments across the world, TikTok’s parent company is still willing to experiment with new social services. ByteDance is now testing a new app that offers a private photo-sharing experience.

Whee is a new app developed by ByteDance that many have described as a blatant Instagram clone, offering a social “club” where users can share photos with each other much like they already do on Meta’s network. Whee encourages users to share their photos “with friends only,” stating that the app is designed to connect people who know each other rather than internet strangers.

The new app is currently available on Google’s Play Store in about a dozen countries including Australia, Turkey, Thailand, and Pakistan, but the US is not among them. Trying to access the service from unsupported countries doesn’t seem to work, suggesting that ByteDance could be enforcing a strong VPN blocking policy.

Whee’s user interface can be seen as either a testament to Instagram’s successful social experience or as a plain clone of one of the most popular social networks around. The UI provides tabs for the camera, feed, and messages, much like Instagram. There is also an Instagram-like notification button.

The focus on privacy is vastly different from how TikTok works, as the latter is designed to engage total strangers with viral video clips. Whee seems to be designed as a more limited social experience, with no emphasis on “viral” sharing. The app aims to be the “ideal place” for people to share private life moments with friends and family members.

Given its limited availability and the lack of official announcements by ByteDance, the Whee app can be considered a soft launch for a service still in its preview state. The Chinese company might decide to open Whee to a much wider audience at a later date or could shut the service down after collecting user feedback.

ByteDance is facing a potential ban of TikTok in the US, Europe, and other parts of the world. The company is trying to ward off Washington’s attempt to remove the app from mobile stores via legal means, while recent rumors suggested a US-only version of the service could be in the works – ByteDance later shut those rumors down.

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