What is it?
TikTok is, in essence, a service for sharing short-form videos with friends. It’s a lot more than that, as we’ll get to, but it’s also the key service which has helped make Chinese parent company Bytedance into the world’s most valuable tech startup, trumping even the mighty Uber with a value of over $75 billion.
How is that possible?
That’s a very good question, and one we can only really answer with some big statistics. TikTok (a merger of Bytedance’s original Chinese social network, Douyin, and musical.ly, purchased by the company in 2017) is immensely popular with young people the world over, netting more downloads than Facebook, Youtube, and Instagram in the US. It has been downloaded some 80 million times in the US alone.
That’s pretty big. Should I download it?
No. Really. The fact that you’re reading this magazine tells us TikTok isn’t for you, unless you’re interested in watching teenagers singing along to their favourite songs. TikTok is a wild west social network for those craving attention – and while we don’t think it’s going away soon, one of Bytedance’s other social projects has been banned in China because its users were creating some rather vulgar content.
Can I trust my kids with it?
We’d put TikTok on the same level as Snapchat, in as much as it’s very possible to encounter less-than-savoury content if you go looking for it. It’s hard to control a teenager, but try to establish some trust.
So what’s the big takeaway?
Essentially, the Chinese are coming. TikTok is one thing, but Asia’s largest company, Tencent, is picking up stakes in products like eSports game League of Legends and Fortnite creator Epic Games. As Chinese tech money grows, it’s coming to the West – and we don’t think it’s going to stop.