Done cloning Snapchat, Facebook is now chasing Chinese short-form video sensation TikTok with the launch of its knock-off Lasso. Available now for iOS and Android, Lasso is Facebook’s answer to the zany mobile lipsyncing playground that’s gained ground with young users, both in China and in the West.
The release confirms TechCrunch’s scoop from last month that the company was building an app called Lasso to let people share short videos with soundtracks. With TikTok looking like the next big thing, it’s not surprising to see Facebook playing chase, much like it did, successfully, when Snapchat posed an existential threat.
A Facebook spokesperson confirmed that the launch of Lasso on iOS and Android is in the U.S. only for now, telling us “Lasso is a new standalone app for short-form, entertaining videos — from comedy to beauty to fitness and more. We’re excited about the potential here, and we’ll be gathering feedback from people and creators.” While Lasso was released under the Facebook umbrella, the company launched it informally and with relatively little fanfare via a tweet from a product manager on the team.
Lasso lets you shoot up to 15-second long videos (no uploads allowed) and overlay popular songs. The app centers around an algorithmic feed of recommended videos, but also lets you tap through hashtags or a Browse page of themed collections.
The original slate of videos seeded by Lasso’s beta users look pretty good, making use of the millions of songs in its soundtrack catalog. There are no augmented reality effects or crazy filters like you’ll find in TikTok, but users are already taking advantage of the slo-mo and fast-forward recording features to make fun clips. Overall the app feels well constructed, and has that colorful and playful teen vibe.
Surprisingly, Facebook is releasing Lasso under its own name rather than trying to obscure the connection to its social network that younger users have largely abandoned. You can log in with Facebook or Instagram to get instant personalization, with the option to syndicate your Lassos to Facebook Stories with that option for Instagram is coming soon. Notably, all content and profiles on Lasso are public, which could cause some concern about older users leering at dancing teens.
Musical.ly had its own big problems with inappropriate underage content. Its leaderboard of top videos often included scantly clad pre-teens dancing to racy pop songs, seemingly flaunting the U.S. COPPA child protection laws. Lasso includes a report button, but it’s unclear where Facebook will draw the line on what’s allowed.
The big question is whether Lasso is too late. Musical.ly rose to over 200 million registered users before being acquired by Chinese tech giant ByteDance and rolled into its similar app TikTok. That app has been on an epic rise over the past few months, turning into a global phenomenon that surpassed Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube in downloads during October.
While Instagram and Facebook were massively successful at cloning Snapchat’s Stories, they had the advantage of building the feature into their already-popular apps. Lasso will have to start from scratch as a standalone app, and Facebook’s previous teen-focused standalones like Slingshot and Poke failed spectacularly with the same strategy. Facebook will have to hope its initial cadre of content creators will prove so compelling as to convince people to download a whole new app, which could be an uphill battle — even for Facebook.