TikTok

TikTok known in China as Douyin, is a social video app that allows its users to share short videos. There's plenty of stickers, filters, and augmented reality features to add to your videos. TikTok is famous for creating short music videos of between 3 and 15 seconds. You can also create short looping videos of between 3 and 60 seconds.

Quick Facts

Summary

  • Ranked #23th worldwide
  • Active users 1.1 b
  • Type Media Sharing Networks
  • Launched date Sep 2016
  • Employees 12,228
  • Headquarters Los Angeles, California, U.S.
  • Parent company ByteDance (2017 - present)

Founders

person
Zhang Yiming Fujian

Networks

  • Brand value In 2020 $16.9 b
  • Revenue in 2020 $1 b
  • Net loss In 2020 N/A

Current controversies

Current controversiesIllustration by Soham Sen. (via theprint.in)

Some users may find it hard to stop using TikTok. In Apr 2018, an addiction-reduction feature was added to Douyin. This encouraged users to take a break every 90 minutes.

Later in 2018, the feature was rolled out to the TikTok app.

Many countries showed concerns regarding the content of TikTok which is thought to be obscene, immoral, vulgar, and encouraging of pornography.

There have been temporary blocks and warnings issued by countries including Indonesia, Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan over the content concerns.

In Jan 2020, Media Matters for America said that TikTok hosted misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic despite a recent policy against misinformation.

Censorship of TikTok: United States

Censorship of TikTokUnited States TikTok ban. (via brookings.edu)

TikTok was criticized for accessing the clipboard content on their users' iOS devices, a feature the company said it had plans to stop doing. TikTok argued this feature was set up as an "anti-spam" measure but removed the feature regardless.

On 6 Aug 2020, President Donald Trump signed Executive Order 13942 which would ban TikTok transactions in 45 days if it is not sold by ByteDance.

TikTok considered selling the American portion of its business and held talks with companies including Microsoft, Walmart, and Oracle.

On Sep 23, TikTok filed a request for a preliminary injunction to prevent the app from being banned by the Trump administration. This request was filed with the District Court for the District of Columbia.

On Dec 7, Washington D.C. district court judge Carl J. Nichols issued a preliminary injunction against the Commerce Department, preventing them from imposing restrictions on TikTok.

Censorship of TikTok: India

Censorship of TikTokIndia's TikTok ban. (via gsmarena.com)

TikTok was banned completely in India by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology on 29 Jun 2020, along with 223 other Chinese apps, with a statement saying they were "prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defense of India, security of a state and public order".

The ban was made permanent in Jan 2021. In Feb 2021, TikTok announced that due to the ban it will cut more than 2,000 jobs in India.

Political Censorship

Political CensorshipFeroza Aziz TikTok. (Christopher Miranda/ via hauterrfly.com)

On 27 Nov 2019, TikTok temporarily suspended the account of 17-year-old, Afghan-American user Feroza Aziz (@ferozaaziz) after she posted a video, disguised as a makeup tutorial, drawing attention to the internment camps of Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang, China.

TikTok later apologized and said that her account was suspended as a result of human error, and her account has since been reinstated.

In Jul 2020, TikTok suspended the account of another user whose viral video called attention to the human rights of the Uyghurs.

Original Idea

original ideaoriginal idea

TikTok, known in China as Douyin, was launched by ByteDance in Beijing, China in Sep 2016, originally under the name A.me, before rebranding to Douyin (抖音) in Dec 2016.

ByteDance planned on Douyin expanding overseas. The founder of ByteDance, Zhang Yiming, stated that "China is home to only one-fifth of Internet users globally. If we don’t expand on a global scale, we are bound to lose to peers eyeing the four-fifths. So, going global is a must."

On Nov 9, 2017, TikTok's parent company, ByteDance, spent up to US$1B to purchase Musical, a startup headquartered in Shanghai with an overseas office in Santa Monica, California, US.

Musical.ly was a social media video platform that allowed users to create short lip-sync and comedy videos, initially released in Aug 2014.

TikTok merged with musical.ly on 2 Aug 2018 to create a larger video community, with existing accounts and data consolidated into one app, keeping the title TikTok.

Brief History

2012
Aug Zhang Yiming, a 29-year-old serial engineer, established ByteDance in Beijing.
2014
Aug Chinese product designer Alex Zhu launched Musical.ly.
2016
Sep ByteDance launched Douyin in Beijing, China.
2017
Nov ByteDance bought Musical.ly, for $800M to $1B.
2018
Jul Indonesian authorities ban TikTok for containing “pornography, inappropriate content and blasphemy”.

The ban was lifted a week later and opened an office in Indonesia.

Aug Merged with Musical.ly and became available in the U.S.
Oct Surpassed Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube in downloads.
Dec An addiction-reduction feature was added to TikTok.
2019
Feb The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) fines TikTok $5.7M over violation of children’s privacy law.
Mar 1B downloads.
Sep TikTok was found censoring topics considered sensitive by the Beijing government.
Dec The U.S. Navy bans TikTok from government-issued mobile devices.

TikTok bans political ads.

2020
Feb Announced a family safety mode for parents to be able to control their children's digital well-being.

TikTok introduced parental controls.

Apr 2B downloads globally.
Jun Former Disney head Kevin Mayer was named CEO of TikTok and COO of ByteDance.
Jul Announced a $200M fund for U.S. creators.
Aug President Donald Trump signed an executive order 13942 banning transactions with TikTok in 45 days.

TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer stepped down after 100 days, and Vanessa Pappas took over as CEO.

Sep TikTok held talks with companies including Microsoft, Walmart, and Oracle.

800M monthly active users.

TikTok filed a lawsuit, Tik Tok v. Trump.

Partnered with Shopify on social commerce.

Nov U.S. Judge halts Trump's TikTok ban.
2021
Jan Banned Trump content deemed to be inciting violence.
Feb 1.1B monthly active users.
May Shou Zi Chew took over as CEO.

Network Features

Profiles

ProfilesTikTok profile. (via tiktok.com)

Each TikTok account has a profile, which contains a personal photo icon, and numerical counts for Following, Followers, and Likes.

The For You page is the app’s Homepage. TikTok For You page is filled with videos, collated by TikTok’s algorithm, designed to present you with a collection of videos you should enjoy, based on your past behavior on the app.

Content is generated by TikTok's artificial intelligence (AI) depending on the content a user liked, interacted with, or searched. Users can also choose to add to favorites or select "not interested" on videos for their page.

TikTok Discover

TikTok DiscoverTikTok Discover. (via tiktok.com)

Use Discover to search and explore the wide variety of content in the TikTok community. In this feed, you'll find trending videos, hashtags, creators, and sponsored content.

TikTok live

TikTok liveTikTok live. (via tiktok.com)

TikTok Live is the perfect way to grow your audience because it gives you a chance to share more of yourself through a longer-form video. It allows users and creators to interact in real-time. Users 16 years and over can launch Lives, and users 18 years and over may send and receive gifts during a Live.



Following: This is a page only to see the videos from the accounts a user follows.

Trends are shown on TikTok's explore page or the page with the search logo. The page enlists the trending hashtags and challenges among the app.

Once you’ve reached 1,000 followers, TikTok will allow you to accept gifts from your fans during your Live videos. Virtual gifts are icons ranging from pandas (5 coins) to a drama queen (5,000 coins).

Once you’ve collected your gifts, you can trade the virtual icons in for virtual diamonds. Diamonds are converted to US dollars, which you can then withdraw into your bank account. A diamond is equivalent to around $0.05.

However, TikTok also retains 50% of what you earn, so if you earned $50 worth of diamonds, you only keep $25.

The app's "React" feature allows users to film their reaction to a specific video, over which it is placed in a small window that is movable around the screen.

The ‘Auto Captions’ feature is a great way to increase user interaction through videos and leads to a better comprehension of the videos.

Creators on TikTok can choose to use auto captions in the editing page after uploading or recording a video. The speech is then automatically transcribed and displayed as text to users as they watch.

For creators, Playlists are great for organizing your content in different themes — so you can keep viewers locked in for longer. This could be a great way to boost engagement with your content on TikTok.

Small Gestures enables people to send gifts to others and does so through partnering with other brands.

TikTok has already established a range of brand partners to launch the platform with their community. Brand partners range from multiple sectors across beauty, music, gaming, creativity, fitness, and wellness, food, and hospitality.

Duets: This feature enables users to post their content alongside that created by another user, so viewers can see both at the same time.

Stitch allows users to clip and use scenes from other videos on their own (while retaining credit per video creator). TikTok Stitch isn't enabled by default, so users can decide whether others can Stitch their videos or not.

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