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TikTok Notes is the new competitor to Instagram. What is the app and how does it work? | Social media

TikTok quietly launched its Instagram rival, Notes, in Australia and Canada on Thursday, testing out a new app dedicated to still images and text.

What is it?

A TikTok spokesperson said Notes is “a dedicated space” for photo and text content, and a way for users to “create and share their creativity”. To the average person, it looks very similar to Meta’s Instagram. A place for people to share still images with text.

Do I need a new account?

No, it’ll let you use your existing TikTok account if you have one. The company indicated to users of the regular app last week that unless they opt out, existing or future posts in the TikTok app will be shown in Notes, but it is understood this hasn’t been implemented in the launch of the app.

What can I post on there?

You can post photos or images with a caption, and unlike Instagram, it’ll allow you to post a headline for the photo as well as a caption.

What can I see on there?

So far it looks like your typical filling space, memes-style content, but that will likely change if more people begin using it, content creators join, and you follow your friends on the platform.

It has a “following” tab to show the people you follow, and a “for you” tab to show the TikTok algorithm’s determination of what you should see on the platform, just like regular TikTok.

Does it have Stories?

No, it appears for now just to be an old-school Instagram style app where photos you post are up on your profile and not for a limited time.

What about Reels?

Well, Reels is Instagram’s answer to TikTok’s endlessly scrolling short video app, so no. The TikTok version of Reels is… TikTok.

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Has the company said when it’ll be available outside of Australia and Canada?

At this stage, no. At the moment it’s just available for download and “limited testing” in those two countries.

It’s not clear why Australia and Canada were first to launch, but generally tech companies often roll out new features or services to like-minded western countries with smaller populations to test them out before a broader rollout in places like the UK and the US, or where regulation of apps is stricter, like the EU.

Should I install it?

Fair to say if you work for a government agency in either country and want to install it on your work device, it will be likely that the same bans that currently apply to the Chinese-owned company’s regular app on government devices in both Australia and Canada will apply to this app.

Other than that it is the usual caveats around the concern of privacy and what social media apps collect on users, and use at your own risk.

Hard to say at this stage. Meta’s habit of adopting the features of its competitors from Snapchat to TikTok in Instagram has so far been a success for the company. The Guardian reported that in 2023, Instagram overtook TikTok in terms of app downloads, off the back of the success of its TikTok-clone Reels.

Instagram has more active users (1.5 billion versus 1.1 billion) but data suggests TikTok users spend more time on the app than Instagram users do (95 minutes a day versus 62).

Whether another large social company like TikTok can be as successful in copying Instagram remains to be seen.

Won’t TikTok be banned soon?

For now it seems that any plans in western countries like the US or Australia are a non-starter despite much noise around it, but it’s still very much a live issue.

Canada announced last month it was conducting a national security review of TikTok.

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