TikTok is testing a clutter-free user experience on its mobile app, thanks to a new feature called Clear Mode that removes all the on-screen buttons to provide a clean visual experience for watching short videos. The idea sounds like a TikTok nirvana for users and, in hindsight, yet another ploy by the platform to keep users glued to their phone’s screen. But TikTok is not the only platform to aim for that social media moonshot. In May this year, Instagram chief Adam Mosseri also gave a glimpse of a full-screen home feed that takes full advantage of the screen real estate by showing photos and videos in a 16:9 aspect ratio.
The redesigned mobile UI not only prevents cropping or stretching by showing content shot in its natural portrait orientation but also feels more immersive. However, it’s not just about aesthetics here. For a platform like TikTok, a healthy amount of the audience simply wants to watch a few fun or interesting videos without sharing or engaging with them via comments or stitching for a reaction video. On the flip side, a reduced engagement from users’ end also means the algorithms won’t be able to surface eerily likable videos that keep users scrolling. Either way, TikTok wants users to make the final choice.
TikTok has officially started testing Clear Mode on its mobile app. And from tweets that have been shared on Twitter, it appears that the pilot testing is being done in a small circle of users spread across the United States, Europe and Arabic-speaking regions. But do keep in mind that this is still a soak test and has been enabled randomly for a few users, which means it won’t appear for everyone despite using tricks like VPN or jumping between old/new builds of the app. For these users, enabling Clear Mode removes key on-screen details such as the video creator’s username, the Following and For You buttons from the top, audio track details, etc. In addition, for some users, the row of buttons alongside the right edge of the screen for engagement controls such as Like, Share, and Comment also goes away, leaving nothing but the status bar at the bottom.
A Carrot And Stick Deal
To enable Clear Mode, assuming it has been enabled for the user, just tap and hold on the screen. Doing so will open a dialog box that will show a Clear Mode option nestled between Add to Favorites and Report buttons. Once Clear Mode is enabled, users will see a small icon in the bottom right/left corner of the screen that users can tap to revert to the standard view. TikTok hasn’t officially confirmed any rollout plans for the Clear Mode, but given the scope of testing, it won’t be long before it is widely rolled out. Of course, there’s always a chance it might end up on the chopping board based on feedback and business considerations. After all, engagement serves as a crucial parameter for advertisers to forge partnerships with content creators to hawk goods and make some money for both parties.
Clear Mode comes with its own set of perks and drawbacks. Take, for instance, the ability to take screenshots or capture a screen recording. On the one hand, the captured media looks clean without any on-screen buttons or text. But, on the flip side, it can be re-uploaded by a bad actor without giving any due credit to the original creator. The clean UI is visually pleasing, but without core engagement data points such as likes or comments, the algorithm has less information on creating a user’s profile and showing them more relevant content. But it’s just about videos. A lower engagement also means the ads that users see will also be haphazard and less relevant to their interests, which is neither good for the audience nor for TikTok’s business.