Facts About TikTok: What Is It, How It Works, Who Is The Owner Of Tiktok Knowinsiders.com
Facts About TikTok: What Is It, How It Works, Who Is The Owner Of Tiktok Knowinsiders.com
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TikTok is arguably one of the biggest social media platforms, with many famous figures rising to stardom thanks to the platform. However, considering how massive the company is, many want to know who owns TikTok at the moment.

Musical.ly was a popular short-form (15 seconds) video streaming and sharing app, with over 100 million users, up until August 2018. The app allowed users a plethora of music and dialogue options, with which they could lip sync and make funny or entertaining videos.

The app was widely popular, with some content creators rising to the hall of fame based on their engaging content on Musical.ly. The users shared Musical.ly videos on social media platforms like Instagram, further driving the app’s popularity.

However, in August 2018, the app was taken over by a Chinese company ByteDance and its users were moved to TikTok. All of the content and accounts that were present on Musical.ly were automatically transferred to the new TikTok app.

What is TikTok?

TikTok, known in China as Douyin (Chinese: 抖音; pinyin: Dǒuyīn), is a short-form video hosting service owned by Chinese company ByteDance. It hosts a variety of short-form user videos, from genres like pranks, stunts, tricks, jokes, dance, and entertainment with durations from 15 seconds to ten minutes. TikTok is an international version of Douyin, which was originally released in the Chinese market in September 2016. TikTok was launched in 2017 for iOS and Android in most markets outside of mainland China; however, it became available worldwide only after merging with another Chinese social media service, Musical.ly, on 2 August 2018.

TikTok is a popular social media app that allows users to create, watch, and share 15-second videos shot on mobile devices or webcams. With its personalized feeds of quirky short videos set to music and sound effects, the app is notable for its addictive quality and high levels of engagement.

Amateur and professional creators alike can add effects like filters, background music, and stickers to their videos, and can collaborate on content and create split-screen duet videos even if they're in different locations.

Understanding TikTok

Photo: Freepik
Photo: Freepik

TikTok is a social media app dedicated to short-form videos created for and consumed by users. The length of videos is between 15-60 seconds.

The format lends itself to entertainment and comedy. However, it is increasingly used for infotainment. So-called influencers who gain a steady audience on TikTok offer snippets of advice and tips along with self-promotion. Beauty, fashion, personal finance, and cooking are all popular topics for informational videos. Increasingly, the format is used to promote and sell products.

Launched in its present form in 2018, TikTok joined the ranks of social media giants in record time.

It had about one billion active monthly users worldwide by Sept. 2021. The 2022 marketing report predicted TikTok will break three billion downloads worldwide as well as users spending $3 billion across iOS and Google Play by the end of the year.

Like all social media companies, TikTok has been the target of persistent if vague concerns about the potential use or misuse of the private information it gathers about its users. The difference is that the majority of TikTok is Chinese-owned.

A Brief History Of TikTok And Its Rise To Popularity

TikTok currently boasts 800 million active users worldwide with over 2 billion downloads on the App Store and Google Play - an impressive feat for a platform launched in 2016, which now competes with the likes of Facebook (2004), Twitter (2006) and Instagram (2010).

With more businesses turning to TikTok to market their brand, along with the wide press coverage surrounding a potential TikTok ban in the USA, we’ve taken this opportunity do a deep dive on the subject for our audience - so that you can gain a better understanding of the platform, and make an informed decision on whether or not TikTok is a worthy investment for your brand.

Context - Musical.ly Merger and Going Global

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock

TikTok was created by Chinese tech giant ByteDance and was first released in September 2016 under the name “Douyin”, which was marketed as a video-sharing social networking service similar to Facebook and Instagram (both of which are banned in China). In November 2017, ByteDance acquired another social media app called Musical.ly - which allows users (a.k.a. “Musers”) to create and share short 15-second lip-sync videos on their platform. ByteDance eventually closed down the Musical.ly app and incorporated most of its features into Douyin. In August 2018, ByteDance released the global version of Douyin, TikTok. One of the main draws of TikTok is its elaborate algorithm that quickly figures users’ tastes and preferences based on how they engage with the app.

Most of TikTok’s prominent features come from Musical.ly, but what you might not know is that Musical.ly came very close to failure. Musical.ly, which was originally called “Cicada”, started out as an app for sharing short-form education videos targeting a teenage audience. According to founders Alex Zhu and Luyu Yang, the app was doomed for failure - lesson planners faced a tough time creating videos that were educational, entertaining, and short enough to fit the 3-5 minutes time frame. The app failed to attract users and creators.

With only 8% of their funds remaining, Zhu and Yang decided to completely rework their app. In July 2014, they rebranded as Musical.ly - a social network that combines music and videos to attract an early-teen demographic. Videos were shortened to 15 seconds long and the app gave users a huge database of songs, filters and movie clips to lip-sync to. The app’s initial release was largely positive with good user retention numbers, but after 10 months of slow growth, the company came close to shutting down again due to cashflow problems.

Lip-sync videos were gaining popularity, with other lip-syncing apps like Triller and Dubsmash entering the market around this time. Zhu and Yang discovered that videos being made on Musical.ly were being downloaded and shared on other social media platforms, but without any links or reference on their videos, they were unable to drive traffic to their platform. Within 2 months of including a watermark logo in their videos, Musical.ly jumped to the top of the Apple App Store charts, where it would stay for many months - and the rest is history.

Content - Variety Is The Spice Of Life

Most people know TikTok for dance and lip-sync videos, which are made possible by TikTok’s extensive music library, called “Sounds”, that licenses music from popular music labels like Sony Music, Warner Music and Universal Music. The process of recording such videos is fairly straightforward - once you’ve selected a piece of music, it will play from your smartphone’s speakers in real-time as you’re filming. Over the years, TikTok has evolved to include other forms of content, and new TikTok users are prompted to select what they want to see on the app - choosing from categories like comedy, baking, food, sports, DIY, animals, facial treatments, etc.

Most TikTok users will browse the “For You” section, which uses an algorithm to showcase content that’s personalised to the user based on their past activity. Videos are displayed one at a time and users scroll down to see the next video. Whenever a new video is uploaded, the algorithm will display it to a small subset of users. Videos with good user engagement (likes, shares, watch time) will be pushed to more users with similar interests, and if the process repeats itself enough times, the video can go viral. This process occurs regardless of how many followers the creator has, which follows TikTok’s philosophy that good content will travel far.

Community - Discovery & Engagement

At its core, the main reason why TikTok has become so popular is its online community. First off, TikTok is available in 155 countries and in 75 languages. As such, practically anyone with an internet connection can join the TikTok community. TikTok showcases some impressive user engagement figures: each user spends an average of 52 minutes per day on TikTok and an average of 1 million TikTok videos are watched every day. 90% of TikTok users access the app on a daily basis, and 41% of TikTok users are aged between 16 and 24.

TikTok’s main community-building feature is “Duet”, which allows users to record themselves alongside existing TikTok videos in a split-screen format. Users can also choose to use just the audio from the original video, which is credited at the bottom of the video as the “Original sound”. Tapping on the “Original sound” will link you to the original TikTok video, as well as all other TikTok videos using the same “Original sound”. This encourages users to respond, parody or perform alongside other TikTokers, and in this way, it’s easy to see how quickly memes and challenges can go viral on TikTok. Any video on TikTok can be downloaded and shared to other platforms - download videos will automatically include the TikTok logo and the TikToker’s username. TikTok also allows users to include links to Instagram pages, YouTube channels and Twitter accounts on their profiles - making it easy for users to build their online presence.

Who Owns TikTok?

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock

ByteDance owns TikTok, despite there previously being talks of selling the company to an American company.

This Chinese tech company has achieved its aspirations of being as big as some of its competitors, such as Alibaba, Tencent, and Baidu.

ByteDance is based in Beijing, China, and has offices all over the world.

Some of its American branches are located near Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Austin, and Mountain View.

The company has 36 offices across 23 countries, not all of which are used for TikTok.

ByteDance also owns Helo, Vigo Video, BaBe, Huoshan, and Douyin.

Douyin is the Chinese version of TikTok and shares all the same features.

Huoshan is another platform for short videos but differs from TikTok in the services that it provides.

What ByteDance has done better than its competitors is create applications for the everyday consumer.

TikTok is its most popular business venture by far, having earned it worldwide fame.

TikTok was created in 2018 after ByteDance purchased the popular music-video application Music.ly.

Under ByteDance’s leadership, Music.ly became even more popular as TikTok after being able to attract major brands and publishers.

As more social media stars and brands began adding TikTok to their rotation of social media platforms, the application was able to prove that it was just as useful for brands as it was entertaining for consumers.

TikTok was also able to do something that older social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook couldn’t.

It attracted younger audiences.

By 2019, ByteDance had found that 69% of its audience was aged 16 to 24 and 25% of its audience was over the age of 25.

TikTok is now an application that has been accepted by older audiences and proven that it’s perfect for everyone, not just youth.

Who Owns ByteDance?

Photo: Pandaily
Photo: Pandaily

Zhang Yiming is the owner and founder of ByteDance.

He was the CEO and former chairman of the company when ByteDance decided to purchase Music.ly, but he has since stepped down from his role as CEO.

Zhang owns an estimated 22% stake in the company and has a net worth of $53.2 billion.

Although he may not feel he is the proper person to lead the company, he is now able to sit back and collect the money thanks to his stake.

Zhang Yiming was born in the Fujian province of China in 1983 to parents who were both civil servants.

When he first began studying at Nankai University, he studied microelectronics before he decided to switch his degree to software engineering.

When Zhang started his first software engineering job shortly after graduating in 2004, he worked as Kuxun’s first software engineer.

Kuxun was a digital travel booking startup company.

Only a year after being in the position, Zhang was leading a team of 40 to 50 people.

Shortly before Zhang would go on to create ByteDance, he worked for Microsoft as well.

The skills he learned while working for Kuxun and Microsoft gave him the proper examples of how to run an online company.

ByteDance was founded in 2012 and the first application ByteDance released was a news application called Toutiao.

TikTok was first released by ByteDance under the name Douyin to Chinese markets in 2016.

The application was an immediate hit in its home country and quickly became one of the most popular applications on the internet.

When TikTok went to the global market, Zhang Yiming believed that his company needed to show other Chinese technology companies the level of determination that they’d need to thrive.

Everything about TikTok needed to be perfect.

Who Owns TikTok's Net Worth?

Photo: Financial Times
Photo: Financial Times

Considering valuations have estimated the app to be worth at least $50 billion, many want to know who will reap the rewards. Of course, that individual would be Zhang Yiming, with some reports estimating his extreme wealth at $44.5 billion this year.

Is TikTok safe?

A quick TikTok search shows some concern surrounding the safety of users on the app after a recent highly-dangerous viral trend called the 'blackout challenge' caused the deaths of two young American girls in 2021. However, various people state they do not feel the app, in particular, is any more dangerous than any other current form of social media.

To answer the question of who owns TikTok in 2022, the company that originally developed the app still has ownership of it. The parent company continues to rake in massive profits and an ever-growing amount of users on the platform, thanks to its resurgence of popularity over recent years.

Briefly.co.za wrote about another intriguing story surrounding the platform; the shocking murder of 26-year-old TikToker Kalecia Williams, who was gunned down while filming a video for the platform.

TikTok's User Base

TikTok is one of the world's most popular social media apps and is available in more than 150 markets and over 35 languages. The app has seen more than 3.5 billion downloads worldwide, making it one of the most popular apps ever.

Here's a breakdown of some of the app's most notable demographics:

  • 43% of users are between the ages of 18 and 24.
  • 56% are female.
  • About 136 million active users are from the U.S.
  • Its users spend an average of 46 minutes per day on it.

TikTok and Politics

Like most social media sites, TikTok is not immune to controversy. TikTok and many other Chinese-made apps were banned in India in mid-2020 as a danger to the nation's sovereignty. The move came amid growing tensions between the two nations.

TikTok is banned in Bangladesh. It was also briefly banned in Indonesia for "pornography, inappropriate content, and blasphemy." The ban was overturned a week later after the company promised to take all objectionable content off the platform and set up a local office to monitor and sanitize content.

In February 2019, the company paid $5.7 million in the U.S. to settle allegations that it illegally collected personal information from children. It is the largest civil penalty ever obtained by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in a children’s privacy case.

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