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 add music and effects, and share them on the site. The most famous clips are high on entertainment value, having a premium on instant gratification. Comparable to Vine, which turn off in 2016, TikTok can be looked at as a youtube video version of Instagram or Snapchat.
TikTok comes from China, but, interestingly, it is not belonging to one of the Chinese tech giants. Despite massive investments in video platforms by the likes of Alibaba, Tencent, and Baidu, none of them dominates this region. TikTok – known locally as Douyin – was released in 2016 by ByteDance, a Beijing-based tech company traditionally dedicated to news. Its news app, called Toutiao, uses advanced AI algorithms that learn user preferences, then provides customised news feeds. Bytedance uses exactly the same algorithms to provide relevant video feeds to TikTok users.
By the start of 2017, Douyin had become China’s most widely used Music. In November the exact same year, ByteDance spent US$1 billion to acquire a competing video sharing site called Musical.ly. While Musical.ly have also been founded in China, most of its users were located in the US. The combined global reach of TikTok and Musical.ly designed for an effective combination.
Although many social media applications focus 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 developed by local celebrities. Additionally, it ran a number of dancing and music campaigns focused on overcoming shyness, a problem for a lot of younger people in Japan.
Challenges are some of the important elements of TikTok. These are generally video skits that get acted out on masse, with folks creating various responses to your 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 become 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 has attracted the interest of U.S. celebrities like Jimmy Fallon and Tony Hawk, for example, in addition to YouTubers on the ffyytx for the upcoming 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 is really an internet joke” underlying most of the material.
But that’s because people trying to speak about TikTok are old(er) those who grew up on the big ol’ mean internet. Cringey, frankly, is an unfair label, because it dismisses TikTok’s success in setting a tone because of its community. Here, users will often post and share unapologetically wholesome content, and receive less mocking than elsewhere on the web – largely because all others on TikTok posts similar “cringey” content, too.