Ask the folks at Social Media Today about this, and they’ll tell you TikTok’s new photo app has been in the works for some time now. 

And judging by some of the platform’s latest messages to its users, the photo app may have a new official name: TikTok Notes. As TikTok user @cmcalgary was recently informed via popup— 

“TikTok Notes, a new app for photo posts, is coming soon. Your existing and future public TikTok photo posts will be shown on TikTok Notes.”

Just last month, though, TikTok was describing a similar spinoff app and calling it TikTok Photos

The apparent switch to “Notes” could be a nod (or another gesture) to Instagram

Taking a page out of Meta’s book?

Meta has shown time and again that plenty of people like viewing and sharing still images. Carousels are still huge on Instagram, and that doesn’t seem likely to change anytime soon. So, why shouldn’t TikTok get in on that—especially if it might make a nationwide ban less likely?

The more loyal—and loud—their users are, the more likely they are to be heard by lawmakers (or so they may hope). 

In any case, TikTok Notes sounds a bit like a clone of what Instagram used to be, and the new app will be populated with all the still images shared to the main TikTok app. As Andrew Hutchinson, the author of the SocialMediaToday post, put it, TikTok is “pulling an Uno reverse card on Meta and replicating its features for a change.” 

It remains to be seen, though, whether TikTok users, who are used to scrolling through short-form videos, will be interested in a separate TikTok app for still images. 

TikTok has been experimenting with a still image app for a while now. In 2022, it added a “photo mode” which enabled users to share still images in-stream—another innovation it’s been promoting to users via pop-up alerts. 

Why now?

As to why TikTok seems so eager to introduce a separate app for still images, any or all of the following factors could be steering the company in that direction: 

  • TikTok Music—Another TikTok experiment, this one focusing on music, has seen some success. So, company leadership may see TikTok Notes as another future feather in their cap—or at least a worthwhile experiment to learn from.  
  • A potential TikTok ban in the U.S.—TikTok could be keeping an ear to the ground with U.S. lawmakers’ efforts to ban TikTok nationwide. This new app could be TikTok throwing whatever it can against the wall to see what sticks, hoping to grow its loyal user base and discourage lawmakers from supporting the ban.
  • Chinese market trends—adding a still image app could have more to do with the fact that Tencent-backed Xiaohongshu (essentially a Chinese version of Instagram) has seen considerable success, especially after the addition of eCommerce features. 

In February 2023, when TikTok owner ByteDance launched Lemon8, its separate eCommerce platform, it soared to the number two spot in U.S. app stores in April (2023). But since then, the hype has worn off, and the app has lost nearly half its daily active users (from 11,930 to 6,360). 

TikTok leadership may be hoping the new Notes app stands a better chance of cementing TikTok’s place in the U.S., with more staying power than Lemon8, which lost traction a few months in. 

So far, we haven’t heard any whispers about a new text-only TikTok app.