What is TikTok

Ross Jukes
Last updated: May 22, 2024
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Started in 2016, TikTok is a social media platform that has swept across the globe. It lets people produce, share and discover short-form videos containing a punchline or two in snackable entertainment.

This social media giant’s motto is “Make Your Day.” To spread happiness and imagination, TikTok combines funny videos that can teach you something new or take you on a journey with the creators themselves.

Over just several years it grew into having more than 1 billion monthly active users who were attracted by its short, entertaining user-generated video content recommended by algorithms custom-fitted for each watcher.

From witty comedy sketches through eye-catching dance moves to visual art pieces or educational tutorials all the way to music performances or slice-of-life snippets – there is no limit to what one might find on TikTok where diverse voices from different corners of this planet come together in one place.

With success also comes fame: many viral entertainers owe their breakthroughs to this app along with various trends which have impacted wider culture significantly; hence why ‘Short Videos; Big Moments’ was chosen as its tagline – both creating & consuming content online never looked back since.

The explosive growth coupled with cultural significance achieved by TikTok has turned it into one of the few defining social platforms seen recently and expectedly shall keep causing ripples over time ahead.

The Explosive Growth of TikTok

Here are some key stats that show just how quickly TikTok has grown:

  • Over 1 billion monthly active users worldwide (2022)
  • Over 3.5 billion global downloads to date
  • Estimated over 140 million monthly active users in the US 
  • Estimated over 200 million monthly active users in India
  • 640 million monthly active users in urban China (2023)
  • Projected 1.5 billion global users by 2024
  • 75% of TikTok users visit the app daily
  • The average user spends 52 minutes per day on TikTok
  • Widest reach among Gen Z, with 67% of US teens using TikTok

This kind of growth shows us how much people love this app — especially young people who are joining every day — which is why it’s becoming one of the most popular social media platforms out there.  

History of TikTok

TikTok actually started out as a Chinese video sharing app called Douyin, which was launched in September 2016 by Beijing-based tech company ByteDance. It focused on the domestic market.

In October 2017, ByteDance introduced an international version of Douyin called TikTok for markets outside of China.

TikTok was created through ByteDance’s acquisition and merger with popular US and European lip-sync and talent app Musical.ly, which helped kickstart its growth in Western markets.

With its addictive user experience and personalization algorithms serving up bite-sized, entertaining videos, TikTok quickly gained traction around the world.

Some key milestones in the app’s history include:

  • 2016 – ByteDance launches Douyin in China
  • 2017 – Acquires and merges with Musical.ly and launches TikTok internationally 
  • 2018 – TikTok hits 500 million global downloads and gains traction in US 
  • 2019 – Exceeds 1 billion downloads worldwide 
  • 2020 – Lands over 215 million downloads in one quarter during COVID lockdowns
  • 2021 – Achieves over 3 billion global downloads 
  • 2022 – Expects to hit 1.5 billion users, with no slowdown in sight

How TikTok Works

TikTok is all about short videos, which can be created and shared across a wide range of genres including:

  • Comedy/humor videos and skits
  • Dance routines and challenges 
  • Lip-syncing and talent videos set to music clips
  • How-to tutorials and life hacks
  • Reactions and storytime updates
  • Artistic videos and creative edits  

Users can take their videos to the next level by applying filters, text overlays, sound clips, and even 3D effects from an extensive content creation toolkit.

The heart of TikTok is its “For You” feed. Drawing on billions of data points, the recommendation algorithms learn each user’s interests to serve up an endless stream of short videos tailored precisely to their likes. This creates a never-ending scroll of addictive personalized content.

Pros and Cons


  • Fosters inventiveness by means of the making of videos.
  • Is a source of amusement, happiness and laughter.
  • Unites individuals around common interests and fads.
  • Generates viral dances, music, fashion and culture
  • Shows life hacks or skills through how-to videos
  • Let various creators get found and gain followers
  • Records genuine emotions and reactions that are more real than Instagram curated. 


  • May be addictive as well as time-wasting because of the endless content 
  • Encourages short attention span
  • It may involve over-sharing leading to privacy threats  
  • Might encounter inappropriate content 
  • Shallow entertainment over profound thought content 
  • Aggressive data collection with questionable ethics

For most users, the benefits of TikTok outweigh the risks if it has proper moderation. However, privacy practices and digital well-being should be made known to them.

Controversies and Challenges Facing TikTok

Despite its tremendous growth rate, TikTok faces a number of challenges linked to its Chinese parent firm ByteDance:

  • National security concerns over the possibility of the Chinese government accessing data 
  • Criticism about aligning content moderation and censorship with China’s interests
  • Regulatory crackdowns such as India’s ban; US also threatened to ban TikTok  
  • Accusations of aggressive data harvesting and manipulation of user psychology 
  • Allegations that it censors content portraying China in bad light 
  • Recently settled FTC privacy violation charges 
  • A class-action lawsuit claiming unauthorized data scraping  

In response, TikTok said that user data is stored separately from China and they have taken measures to keep it this way. Nevertheless, global concerns regarding data safety remain.

The Future of TikTok

As the platform keeps expanding rapidly, there are several possible next steps for development at TikTok:

  • Personalization could be improved through better recommendation algorithms  
  • More filters/editing tools within the app as well as 3D effects should be added for enhanced creativity
  • Sponsored content deals involving brands/businesses partnering with creators may increase
  • E-commerce features might be expanded upon
  • More immersive effects can be created using VR/AR with video as a medium 
  • New types of entertainment like live concerts and influencer events could take place within the app
  • Ownership of the company may change hands leading to different strategies being implemented

Social media and content creation were revolutionized by TikTok. The future is uncertain but its model suggests a more digestible, interactive and algorithmically addictive digital media environment.

Is TikTok just a passing fad? 

Many people believed that TikTok would fade away quickly as another one-hit-wonder app. However, all indications show that this is far from true:

  • Year on year user growth rate keeps increasing at an accelerating pace  
  • Appeals across generations; not confined to any particular age group or demographic 
  • The type of content being created has diversified beyond memes and dances 
  • More creators are joining the platform which means there is money-making potential for skilled individuals  
  • Features such as LIVE and e-commerce integrations make it difficult to leave once you have started using it
  • The algorithms evolve so that even veteran users can find new things that will keep them hooked 
  • TikTok has taken over most social platforms when it comes to entertainment marketing spend.

Given these factors, TikTok appears well-positioned to be a top social platform for the long haul rather than just a fleeting trend. It codified short video storytelling.

Comparing TikTok to Other Social Apps

TikTok is unlike any other major social media app in many ways, but still shares some similarities with them:

TikTok vs. Instagram – On TikTok, you watch funny videos while on Instagram you look at pictures or lifestyle posts made by influencers.

TikTok vs. Snapchat – Snapchat introduced sending disappearing messages which disappeared after some time while TikTok made short videos naturally viral and public.  

TikTok vs YouTube – YouTube hosts longer professional video content whereas TikTok has bitesize casual videos made by regular people.

TikTok vs. Facebook – Facebook is a place where friends and family connect through updates and shares but TikTok brings strangers together around trending video content and challenges.

TikTok vs. Twitter – Twitter is a text-based news and social commentary platform while TikTok showcases fun video entertainment and humor.

TikTok vs. Pinterest – Pinterest is for collecting and discovering visual ideas while TikTok focuses on short video entertainment.

So, although social in nature, TikTok differentiates itself from traditional social media apps with its video-first experience and algorithmic, ephemeral content feed.

TikTok Stats & Company Revenue 

As TikTok continues its explosive growth, revenue figures have followed suit. Some stats about monetization on the platform are as follows:

  1. $4.6 billion estimated annual revenue (2022)
  2. $50 billion estimated company valuation (mid-2022)
  3. $3 billion estimated 2021 revenue (up 180% YoY)
  4. 70% of revenue comes from advertising
  5. Over 800 million monthly active users in China
  6. $0.70 average revenue per user in non-China markets 
  7. 41% of 2021 revenue expected to come from the US market
  8. About 6 million advertisers as of late 2021

TikTok’s revenues still pale in comparison to giants like Meta, but given its growth rate and size, it could soon generate tens of billions annually.

How Does TikTok Make Money?

TikTok generates money through these primary channels:

Advertising – Display ads & sponsored partnerships are the bulk of their income. But they also have video ads, brand takeovers, hashtag challenges, influencer content, etc.

TikTok LIVE – Popular live streams can earn coins and gifts from viewers. TikTok takes a cut of gifting revenues.

Subscriptions – Creators can offer paid subscriptions with exclusive content and benefits for super fans.

E-commerce – They plan further e-commerce integration so users can shop for products shown in videos; they will take a commission.

Data – The value of TikTok’s data and algorithms is huge but this revenue stream is murkier.

With over 1 billion users active on the app for a significant amount of time, TikTok has major opportunities for monetization through ads, transactions and premium offerings.

Is TikTok Owned by Facebook or Google?

No, TikTok is not owned by Facebook, Reddit, Google/Alphabet or any other major US tech companies. The owner of TikTok is ByteDance which is a Chinese tech firm founded in 2012 by entrepreneur Zhang Yiming.

However, due to data privacy concerns, ByteDance may sell TikTok’s US operations to a company like Microsoft or Oracle to avoid banning it outright. So far though they still hold majority control.

Will TikTok Be Banned in the US?

The future of the popular social media application TikTok in the United States remains uncertain amid national security concerns over the app’s Chinese ownership. 

TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese technology company based in Beijing. Given rising geopolitical tensions between the United States and China, the US government officials have expressed apprehension that user data from TikTok’s American operations could be obtained by Chinese authorities, posing risks to U.S. interests.

In response to these concerns, U.S. authorities have pressured ByteDance to divest TikTok’s North American business operations to an American company, such as Microsoft or Oracle. Transferring majority control and data management to a U.S. entity could potentially assuage regulators’ security and data privacy concerns.

However, ByteDance has reportedly been reluctant to forfeit ownership of one of its most prized assets. Unless a sale satisfying US demands is executed soon, restrictive regulatory actions against TikTok seem inevitable.

Potential government interventions could include levying fines, removing TikTok from U.S. app stores, or even a complete ban. But an outright prohibition seems unlikely at this stage given TikTok’s massive popularity in the US market. 

Nonetheless, uncertainty persists over the app’s future accessibility for American users. U.S. authorities are expected to maintain pressure on ByteDance to restructure TikTok’s ownership and control structure. But the ultimate resolution remains to be seen as complex negotiations continue unfolding.

Positive Impacts of TikTok

Despite concerns, TikTok has been identified as having multiple positive impacts by specialists:

  • Inspires creativity, talent and artistry
  • Helps develop video editing skills through content creation
  • Encourages self-expression and boosts confidence levels through creating one’s own content
  • Promotes empathy and emotional intelligence by getting people exposed to different groups/perspectives
  • Raises cultural awareness about popular music figures or moments etcetera 
  • Allows individuals with shared interests to meet each other thus creating networks or friendships
  • Serves as a platform for sharing jokes or funny videos 
  • Influences fashion trends as well as dance moves around the world
  • Acts like an international stage where ordinary people can show off their abilities, thoughts or daily lives 

TikTok can significantly enhance users’ lives when used responsibly since it offers more than just mindless entertainment value.


In short, TikTok is now the king of social media platforms; it does this through the use of short videos and powerful recommendation systems which have never before been seen on such a scale. The way we understand what goes viral online has been changed forever by Tiktok; This has revolutionized internet-based creativity and entertainment. 

Nevertheless, data protection worries along with time spent using the app plus the appropriateness of certain contents have always surrounded TikTok. As it continues to gain dominance over youth culture, more people are becoming suspicious about how much they know about us at TikTok.

However given its history so far, TikTok is not just another passing trend; This app has become an integral part of our lives where people share their moments, favorite dances and other talents very fast. It is still uncertain what will happen next but one thing remains clear – no other social media platform has ever done this before.

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Ross Jukes
Ross Jukes
Ross Jukes is an accomplished American copywriter with a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature and a minor in Creative Writing. Based in the United States, Ross is a language expert, fluent in English and specializes in creating compelling and engaging content. With years of experience in the industry, he has honed his skills in various forms of writing, including advertising, marketing, and web content. Ross's creativity and keen eye for detail have made him a valuable asset in the field of copywriting, where he continues to excel and innovate.

Why Trust Us

Our editorial policy emphasizes accuracy, relevance, and impartiality, with content crafted by experts and rigorously reviewed by seasoned editors for top-notch reporting and publishing standards.

Purchases via our affiliate links may earn us a commission at no extra cost to you, and by using this site, you agree to our terms and privacy policy.

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