Musical.ly Launches Major Update to Video App, Which May Help Broaden Its Audience

Musical.ly has rolled out a significant redesign of its social video app, with the aim of surfacing a broader range of content — which may ultimately widen its appeal beyond the millions of teen girls who make up its core user base.

The Musical.ly 6.0 update, published Wednesday in the iTunes App Store and Google Play, includes an overall refresh to the app’s look and feel along with two key enhancements: a new section that shows similar videos you may like to watch; and new options for user profile pages, including the ability to post a video instead of a photo.

“This is the biggest visual change for Musical.ly since it was born,” said Alex Hofmann, president of North America for the company, which was founded in 2014.

Musical.ly started life as a music-video lip-syncing app, and now has over 215 million users (or “musers,” as it calls them). Today the app hosts videos spanning multiple genres beyond music, including comedy, beauty, fashion, sports, vlogs, food and animals. In addition, Musical.ly has teamed with NBCUniversal, Hearst and Viacom for professionally produced short-form series including shows from E!, Seventeen and MTV.

The No. 1 goal of the new app design is to make “a wide range of content more accessible,” Hofmann said. The new “similar musical.lys” section recommends videos that are similar to videos you’ve watched using an algorithm that incorporates several factors, including a computer-vision system that tries to determine what a video is about.

“We want to make this about personalization,” Hofmann said. “If someone comes in and they’re a 40-year-old guy who watched basketball videos, they will get value in the same way as someone who comes in at a younger age.”

Musical.ly 6.0 also introduces changes to profile screens. Musers can now upload a profile video of up to 6 seconds in length, and present videos in a different layout. In addition, Musical.ly profiles can now link out to Twitter and other social-media services, whereas before it allowed links only to Instagram and YouTube. “Our users don’t like it when a platform constrains them,” Hofmann noted. “We actually encourage our stars to be stars in other areas.”

Musical.ly lets users record, edit and post videos up to 60 seconds long, choosing from a large library of song clips and soundtracks. The app also lets users upload prerecorded videos up to 5 minutes in length.

Users can buy emoji “gifts” for their favorite creators on Musical.ly’s Live.ly live-video app. The Musical.ly app still doesn’t have other monetization features, although Hofmann said those are in the offing.

Shanghai-based Musical.ly, with U.S. headquarters in San Francisco, was founded by software developers and friends Alex Zhu and Luyu Yang, who previously launched an unsuccessful educational video app. The company has raised $147 million to date from investors including GGV Capital, GX Capital, Qiming Venture Partners and Susquehanna International Group.

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