Mitron app, a seemingly unknown entity, has suddenly shot into spotlight over the past few weeks. It has been pegged as a social media platform that will rival TikTok, a widely popular social media app by Chinese company, Bytedance. However, a closer look at the app suggests that it might be prudent for you to exercise caution, before asserting its ‘made in India TikTok rival’ discourse that is being promoted online. There are a number of factors that have suggested this, leaving inconclusive evidence that Mitron might not be worth being trusted immediately.
Who made it?
While small-time applications made by independent developers is not an unprecedented thing, such apps often offer some sort of factual validation towards their authenticity in order to be trusted by users. A quick look at the app’s Google Play Store listing states that it has been built by ‘ShopKiller e-commerce’. This has now been updated to only state ‘MitronTV’ as the developer of the app.
In the past 24 hours since News18’s attempts to validate the app’s maker, the developer contact for the app has been updated from ‘email@example.com’, to ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’. Emails sent to the previous ID were delivered, but so far remain unanswered. The updated email address appears to be entirely wrong, and mails sent to it did not even get delivered.
IIT Roorkee student has quietly released a Tiktok clone called “Mitron TV” a month back and it has not only achieved 5mn installs, it is now no.2 android app in India thus raking in half a million installs per day. Name of the app is the growth hack here IMO pic.twitter.com/z24YtNOwJr— deepakabbot (@deepakabbot) May 25, 2020
In the meantime, reports by TechRadar and Business Insider claimed that the app has been developed by an IIT Roorkee student named Shivank Agarwal, which was claimed by Deepak Abbot, ex-senior vice president at Paytm, on Twitter. Albeit inconclusive, News18’s efforts to track down the alleged person led us to an ex-IIT Roorkee student of the same name, who appears to be presently employed at a technology multi-national, and has a record of starting his own fitness venture years ago, named Oyo Fit. The latter appears to be out of operations now. At the time of publishing, Agarwal did not respond to News18’s attempt to contact him.
Another telltale sign of a dubious application lie in its reviews. In this case, while the Play Store listing of the Mitron app is flooded with positive ratings, the content of the reviews is far more critical. The excerpt of one such review from May 23, which has awarded the app a 5-star rating, says, “1. I can't login with facebook or phone number. 2. Not having feature to edit our videos, only filters are provided. 3. Once the video was uploaded we can't delete it. 4. while changing my profile picture and username I have to tap 2–3 times. 5. sometimes the videos are not being uploaded, it say "oops network connection error". 6. the caption I write It changes and writes from it's own after posting. (sic)”
Most reviews of the app, which has garnered over 5 million installs and close to 200,000 reviews at the time of writing, seem to have given it a positive rating by virtue of being “Indian”. This seems to have tapped into the anti-TikTok narrative in recent times, which has seen the latter get hammered by negative reviews and causing its rating to plummet to below 1.5 out of 5 in recent times. At the time of writing, Mitron’s rating stands at 4.7 out of 5.
App content and ranking
The next big question marks about Mitron come from its content itself. News18 can confirm that Mitron’s interface appears to entirely replicate that of TikTok’s, and even the content on the Mitron app seems to feature many of TikTok’s videos, some even with the TikTok watermark. This appears to suggest some form of content migration occurring between the two apps, but News18 could not confirm whether this was wilful play by Mitron’s developers, or an act of the app’s early users.
The app does not appear to ask for background process permissions on Android, but asks for access to system-level permission to read full network details – a contestable but somewhat usual practice by many apps. Mitron also loads the install referrer API with its app, which suggests some form of revenue model linked to in-app ads. Interestingly, News18 could trace an account in the Mitron app under the name Shivank Agarwal that was listed under videos from its ‘popular’ tab, but questionably, despite showing thousands of views in each of this profile’s videos, it showed zero followers at the time of writing.
As for the app’s ranking, over the past three days, Mitron has gradually declined in the ‘top apps’ list on Google Play Store, starting from second on May 25, to 14th at the time of writing.
Why you should NOT trust the app just yet
While the made in India narrative is a lucrative attraction for many users, Mitron does not seem to offer much confidence in terms of its services, security, privacy or any aspect for that matter. News18 will continue to attempt to reach out to the app’s makers, and will update the story in case a response is received.