Facebook ‘quietly’ released Whale, a new meme-making mobile application apparently to counter the meteoric rise of TikTok, a video-focused social media platform popular with younger users.
The Whale application is only available on the Canadian App Store, where its listing says it can be used to edit your own photos or images from a library of stock photos. “You can share your creations on social media platforms such as Instagram and Messenger,” it said.
The app’s features include a suite of fonts, images, emojis, filters, effects and tools, including a free-form drawing tool, to customize an image to make a meme. Users can select from a blank canvas. It allows users to crop and cut images to make stickers. Filters and effects include popular social media tropes such as laser eyes, bulge and vortex.
The application’s listing confirms that it’s been developed by the New Product Experimentation (NPE) team, which was set up by the Facebook Inc earlier this year to develop new experimental apps for the social media giant.
At the time, Facebook said it was using the separate brand name to set the expectation that its apps could change rapidly, or even shut down if the company finds that they’re not useful for the people. Bump and Aux, two other apps, are also on credit of the NPE team.
A Facebook spokesperson quoted as saying that the apps are intended to help the company discover new features and services that people like. It is pertinent to mention here that Facebook’s experiments with new apps emerged after the sudden rise of video-sharing TikTok platform.
After its launch outside of China in the past two and a half years, TikTok has become popular source of memes that have gone on to spread through other social media platforms. So far this year, the ByteDance-owned app has added over 500 million users, and is on its way to having 1.5 billion users in total.
TikTok’s rise has not been without criticism. Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg has raised concerns over the app’s censorship of criticism of the Chinese government. Some American lawmakers are also investigating TikTok-owner ByteDance’s links to Beijing.
Whale joins a long list of experimental apps that have either been launched or bought by Facebook over years including Moments, Notify, Lifestage, Poke, Slingshot, Tbh, Moves, and Hello. According to some critique, even if Whale is a success, Facebook could scrap the app and just build its tools into the Facebook app directly.