TikTok is a video sharing platform having a twist. Videos can be no longer than 15 seconds and they are based on various themes: music, cooking, travel, dance, fashion, etc. Users create these short videos, use simple tools to incorporate music and special effects, and share them on the site. The most popular clips are high on entertainment value, with a premium on instant gratification. Similar to Vine, which turn off in 2016, TikTok can be looked at as a youtube video version of Instagram or Snapchat.
TikTok arises from China, but, interestingly, it is really not belonging to one of many Chinese tech giants. Despite massive investments in video platforms from the likes of Alibaba, Tencent, and Baidu, none dominates this place. TikTok – known locally as Douyin – was launched in 2016 by ByteDance, a Beijing-based tech company traditionally focused on news. Its news app, called Toutiao, uses advanced AI algorithms that learn user preferences, then provides customised news feeds. Bytedance uses the identical algorithms to supply relevant video feeds to TikTok users.
By the beginning of 2017, Douyin had become China’s most popular Best App 2019. In November the exact same year, ByteDance spent US$1 billion to acquire a competing video sharing site called Musical.ly. While Musical.ly was founded in China, almost all of its users were based in the US. The combined global reach of TikTok and Musical.ly made for a strong combination.
Even though many social networking applications concentrate on global consistency and reach, TikTok focused on targeting specific local audiences. As an example, in Japan, TikTok collaborated using a large artist management company to get traffic from YouTube and Instagram using watermarked TikTok videos produced by local celebrities. It also ran a series of dancing and music campaigns centered on overcoming shyness, an issue for a lot of young people in Japan.
Challenges are some of the key elements of TikTok. These are generally video skits that will get acted out on masse, with people creating various responses to some popular meme. A recent one involved gummy bears singing an Adele song, which got 1.7m likes on TikTok, went viral on Twitter and spawned numerous spinoffs.
The app has been growing steadily because it acquired its U.S.-based rival Musical.ly in November 2017 for north of $800 million, then merged the two apps’ user bases last August. This gave TikTok the means to grow in Western markets, where it provides attracted the interest of U.S. celebrities like Jimmy Fallon and Tony Hawk, as an example, together with YouTubers on the ffyytx for the next new thing.
Instead, its main feed often surfaces everyday users – aka, amateurs – doing something cute, funny or clever, having a tacit acknowledgement that “yes, it becomes an internet joke” underlying a lot of the material.
But that’s because those of us trying to discuss TikTok are old(er) those who matured on the big ol’ mean internet. Cringey, frankly, is definitely an unfair label, as it dismisses TikTok’s success in setting a tone for the community. Here, users will often post and share unapologetically wholesome content, and receive less mocking than elsewhere on the web – largely because everyone else on TikTok posts similar “cringey” content, too.