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The Rise (And Fall?) of TikTok

Technology

Kate Tenen wrote this article

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When you give a mouse an app like Vine, and then take it away — it‘s going to ask for a new, trendier app where you can create mindless mini-video creations to copy dances from your phone screen.

What are we referring to here? You guessed it: TikTok.

This short-form video app has surpassed Instagram by about 238 million downloads so far this year.

So, we at ChopDawg have to ask ourselves the question: Why?

What does TikTok bring to the table that has attracted millions of users from around the globe, including people in powerful positions, such as the leader of Canada’s New Democratic Party, Jagmeet Singh?

In this post, we’ll dive into the intricacies of Tiktok, why users love it, and why this explosive trend may also be headed to the App Store graveyard soon enough.

Breaking TikTok Down

TikTok is a video-sharing app developed and owned by Chinese tech giant, ByteDance. The platform allows users to shoot, edit, and share up to 60-second videos. You can amp up in-app creations using music, templates, filters, and an array of animations.

If creating content isn’t really your thing, no worries! You can still easily participate in the TikTok hype by liking or commenting on others’ content with its feed-centric user interface.

The app launches directly into the feed, givings users a straightforward pathway to popular video content.

You can also follow your favorite TikTok-ers, so you never miss out on their newly released content, you can ‘like’ your favorite videos and send DMs — officially classifying TikTok as a social media app, thanks to its widespread popularity and tendency for videos to go viral.

While originally, TikTok was referred to as the “lip-syncing app”, movement-based videos featuring dancing, gymnastics, and groovy roller skating have been particularly popular. This is because adding transitions, splicing and speeding up/ slowing down video clips is incredibly easy to do.

Looking to tag-team on creating a video? Check out the “duet” videos, where users can add to another existing video.

And, if you’re looking for more comedic content, shift your view over to one of the many “TikTok Challenges” where users film themselves trying to do tasks like catch pickles in their mouth or flip bottles and cans up to their face with minimal effort.

Currently, 40% of TikTok users are located outside of China, with a particularly large user base out of India — comprising about 25% of its app downloads to date.

Why Users Love It

Let’s face it — before TikTok, there were only so many ways to show your personality through social media.

TikTok allows its users a more freeform medium to show followers a glimpse into who they really are. The app itself thrives off of community-led hashtags and challenges, with one video inspiring a host of admirers and soon-to-be copy cats.

Whether it’s dancing precisely to music, coming up with funny reaction videos, or just clips of users sharing political or personal beliefs — users seem to fall in love with their favorite TikTok-ers because they feel they truly know them.

Why only post photos with witty captions, when you can film your shopping haul for the week and promote your favorite brands with cool editing features and add-ons? TikTok is a perfect example of the great migration that happens with social media as new platforms begin to capture the zeitgeist of culture. It is an app that has offered a newer, and more engaging way to interact with one’s followers.

The app even flirts with augmented reality features, channeling its social media video rival Snapchat with AR-centric filters and animations users can add to their videos.

Besides being a social media app, Tiktok has also become short-form entertainment.

As soon as a user opens the app, they’re greeted with a multitude of videos that have to do with their favorite personalities and topics, thanks to their algorithm-driven feed and the more curated feed of all the TikTokers users have decided to follow.

Most importantly, the ‘For You’ section also introduces videos you might otherwise never see or come across, allowing users to expand their interests and virtual unknowns to become online celebrities overnight.

Videos run for about fifteen seconds to one minute in length. It’s a social media and content production app that caters to variety and short bursts of distraction, capturing the interest of both brands and celebrities alike.

TikTok’s hyper growth and competitive advantage stems from this ability to combine services from different app categories.

While TikTok has entertainment as its main draw, there has been a massive increase over the past year in educational, aspirational, and business-related content.

TikTok is even being used by large companies, such as The NBA, as a social media branding tool to give highlights of games, celebrity player cameos, and to showcase personalities with behind-the-scenes video content that feels authentic.

One of the biggest reasons Tiktok has been able to grow so quickly, and its content seems to spread like wildfire, is its creators were really generous with the social media sharing options they included within the app. They even allow users to add links to their Facebook and Instagram profiles at the top of their user profiles.

Many apps out there make it much more difficult to share in-app content to other apps, seeking to drive users to keep in-app content solely within their app. Tiktok readily offers users this ability, and with their logo in the corner of each re-shared landscape-mode video, everyone knows that hilarious viral video they came across via Twitter or Facebook is courtesy of TikTok.

TikTok Feels Familiar…

TikTok is essentially Music.ly 2.0, the 2014 karaoke app.

Music.ly was developed by two young Chinese entrepreneurs, Alex Zhu and Luyu Yang. But in 2017, their app was acquired for around $1 billion by, you guessed it, ByteDance. ByteDance had already developed the Chinese version of TikTok, causing all Musical.ly accounts to automatically migrate over to TikTok in August of 2018.

TikTok may also feel familiar to those who have seen the new “Reel” aspect of social media giants, Facebook and Instagram. Facebook has never been one to shy away from copying the successful features of other apps, the most recognizable being “Stories” (courtesy of SnapChat), which has now grown to have over 1.5 billion daily users.

Facebook went on to once again copy TikTok when it released this latest feature on Instagram, allowing Instagram users to create 15-second long videos set to music or audio of already existing videos.

TikTok also feels familiar to users due to the myriad of other copycats that have sprung up since, looking to capitalize on some of the short-form video app’s success. Google’s launching YouTube Shorts, there’s also Byte, Facebook’s Collab and the kid-targeted Zigazoo.

The End of TikTok As We Know It?

While TikTok has taken the world by storm, there have been some concerns surrounding its security.

In the US, TikTok has been downloaded over 165 million times. It quickly became a massive platform for viral memes as well as political satire. However, prominent critics have brought up the concern the app comes with a potential Chinese spying threat.

TikTok has spoken out against these claims, with their newly-hired American CEO stating the app has “never provided user data to the Chinese Government, nor would we do so if asked.”

And although other political leaders, such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have described TikTok as a “clear and present danger,” many professionals in the cybersecurity community say that the danger is largely hypothetical and unrealistic.

Still, President Trump has threatened to ban TikTok downloads in the US unless they sell to a US company. There was a tentative deal that would see Oracle and Walmart take a minority stake (20% as of right now) in a new US company that will operate TikTok.

The US Department of Commerce pushed back the threatened ban on US downloads of the app by one week, to the end of the day on September 27th. Under the terms of the threatened ban, people who already had TikTok on their phones could still post short videos of dances, fun recipes and comedy routines per usual, but no new downloads would be allowed. US users also wouldn’t be able to receive security patches or other updates, which will have future implications.

TikTok also has a November 12th deadline before companies are banned from providing cloud and internet services for the app.

What is clear is that the fight over TikTok is bigger than who owns an app popular with Generation Z. It’s also about the future of US-China relations, and this will have major ramifications for the global tech industry and users alike.

About ChopDawg.com: Since 2009, we have helped create 350+ next-generation apps for startups, Fortune 500s, growing businesses, and non-profits from around the globe. Think Partner, Not Agency.

 

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