social network

What is TikTok – a musical social network with short videos, ahead of YouTube and Instagram by the number of downloads

In 2018, the Chinese application has become one of the most popular in the world, but on social networks, service remembers more about memes and intrusive advertising.

Getty Photos
Getty Photos

In September 2018, the Chinese application TikTok became the leader in downloads in the United States. It bypassed in the ranking known to all Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. This surprised many media: Business Insider called the service “a viral application you could never hear about.”

First of all, it is connected with the audience of the social network with a musical slant – TikTok is mainly used by teenagers. In the application, they record short videos, where they mostly dance and pretend to sing famous songs.  traced how the Chinese service gained popularity all over the world and the title of “second Vine”, but ran into jokes and complaints about too intrusive advertising.

From news aggregator to teen app

TikTok is owned by the Chinese company Bytedance, recognized in October 2018 by Bloomberg as the most expensive startup in the world. The company was valued at 75 billion dollars, in second place – Uber with an estimated 72 billion dollars.

In 2012, Bytedance was founded by Zhang Yiming, who at the time was 29 years old. Now he is in the ranking of the most influential people in the world of business under 40 years old. The first product of the startup was the Toutiao news aggregator, the main feature of which was the support of artificial intelligence: the algorithm learned from the habits of users and chose the appropriate materials for them.

Zhang Yiming. Photo Bloomberg
Zhang Yiming. Photo Bloomberg

Bloomberg noted that Bytedance is one of the few Chinese startups that did not take money from the local giants Tencent and Alibaba. Eming developed the company at his own expense. In addition to Toutiao, he released several other applications, including video hosting and an online quiz.

In April 2018, the Chinese authorities blocked the application from Bytedance called Neihan Duanzi: it was intended to exchange anecdotes and memes. The reasons for the closure were called “inappropriate jokes”.

Flashmobs and Absorption Musical.ly

In September 2016, Bytedance launched the Douyin app, which outside of China is known as TikTok. The service is intended to create and edit short videos. Previously, the limit was 15 seconds, but then it was extended. Clips can be edited: mount different parts, change the speed and add filters. Videos can only be made in vertical mode, and a watermark with a logo cannot be removed.

You can attach a fragment of a song from the internal library to each clip or download the audio yourself. Because of this, TikTok is often called a “karaoke app”, but this is not quite the case. Many users in their videos and really just open their mouths to the music, but this is only part of the content. Other users record sketches, dance and distribute viral videos. The Verge publication calledTikTok the “spiritual heir” of Vine, another popular short video app that Twitter closed in 2017.

For a long time, the service was popular only in China, but then it began to be promoted around the world. In 2018, he was noticed in the West and in Russia thanks to the Karma Is A Bitch flashmob : the Chinese started making videos en masse, showing a sharp change of the image from “home” to the most effective. According to the company Sensor Tower, in the first quarter of 2018, the TikTok app became the leader in downloads on the App Store.

In August 2018, TikTok absorbed a similar musical application Musical.ly, which by then was already known in the United States and Europe. With the update Musical.ly just turned on all smartphones in TikTok – so the service immediately received 100 million active users.

The media suggested that such a move could scare subscribers, but the product Toutiao continued to gain popularity. In June, the company reported reaching the bar of 500 million users. And in September, the TikTok app surpassed Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat by the number of downloads in the US.

Stars, memes and shameful selections

TikTok is a social network where users can subscribe to the authors of the video and post entries within the application. Registering with this is not necessary – “guests” can view the feed of recommendations and search for the desired content. For other actions you need to register. Different countries have different recommended tapes, and Chinese users are “fenced off” from the rest of the world due to local laws.

Algorithms show not only popular authors of videos: beginners also have a chance to “light up.” The service had its own stars, mostly teenagers dancing and opening their mouths to the music. Among them are 16-year-old German women Lisa and Lena Mantler, who have more than 30 million subscribers in the service and 14 million subscribers on Instagram. In 2017, the twins were nominated for the Teen Choice Awards.

By the fall of 2018, TikTok was strengthened as the main application for young people. First came the information that Facebook is working on an analogue of the service to get the attention of teenagers. And on November 4, the MTV European Music Awards ceremony took place in Spain, with TikTok becoming a partner – the application logos were constantly flashing in the broadcast.

Opponents of the Chinese service also found what to do in the popular social network – they began to make collections of ridiculous clips. You can find dozens of videos on YouTube and Twitter under the headings of “TikTоk Cringe”. Other users turned some flashmobs into memes.

TikTok in Russia

In Russia, the application Musical.ly was popular, so after the absorption, most of the users remained in TikTok. Russian-language short video clips collect tens of thousands of views on YouTube, and advertise the application on TNT. In August 2018, TikTok held a contest for Russian users – they were sent more than 30 thousand works.

Subscribers from Russia not only dance or imitate the performance of songs. Among the popular hashtags can be found kvn and #comedyclub – users themselves re-play popular miniatures, opening their mouth in time. There are people who make their own sketches.

In the Russian top of free applications Google Play service TikTok occupies the fifth place, and in the App Store – the 14th place. The official accounts in the application are in the group Little Big, rapper Timati, models Diana Melison, comedian Garik Kharlamov and video blogger Mariana Ro. According to Google Trends, in early November, the “TikTok” request reached its highest popularity in Russia.

As in the case of Musical.ly, the Russian-speaking segment of social networks was dissatisfied with TikTok’s too intrusive advertising: it constantly appears on YouTube, Twitter and VKontakte. The same claim is in the West. This led to the appearance of a meme about the “irritability” of the service and the lack of intelligence among its users.

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