TikTok says it has crossed a major milestone: The social video app claims it now counts more than 1 billion monthly active users.
TikTok is the successor to Musical.ly, the short-form video app that was acquired by Chinese internet giant ByteDance in 2017, which then migrated those users over to the TikTok platform in 2018. The tremendous popularity of TikTok, especially among teens and young adults, has inspired copycat features from YouTube (with YouTube Shorts) and Instagram (Instagram Reels).
Each month “over a billion people from around the world come to TikTok to be entertained, inspired or discover something new, like sports, music, arts and culture, fashion, DIY and more,” TikTok COO Vanessa Pappas said in a video posted Monday on the service.
Meanwhile, Instagram in June 2018 said it reached 1 billion MAUs, eight years after the app launched. Snapchat, which debuted in 2011, reaches some 500 million monthly users, the company said this past May.
TikTok originally drew a fanbase for lip-syncing music videos, soundtracked by snippets of songs. The app has expanded to other categories and added other features, like expanding the maximum length of a video to 3 minutes from 60 seconds, and the ability to share sound clips with other users.
Today, TikTok positions itself as an entertainment app — not a social platform. “TikTok runs on a content graph so we consider us as more of an entertainment platform,” Sofia Hernandez, head of North American business marketing at TikTok, said at Variety’s Entertainment and Technology Summit last week. “What we’re finding is our users are spending a movie’s worth of time consuming content on TikTok on a daily basis. So, while people will go check social platforms they came to watch TikTok.”
Last year, the future of TikTok was up in the air after Donald Trump issued executive orders that threatened to ban TikTok and other Chinese-owned apps over supposed national security concerns. This summer, President Biden officially revoked Trump’s August 2020 order that would have shut down the TikTok app in the U.S. unless ByteDance sold majority control of TikTok to American entities.
Prior to Trump targeting TikTok, ByteDance had hired ex-Disney exec Kevin Mayer in May 2020 to become CEO of TikTok and COO of ByteDance. But Mayer resigned three months later after TikTok became a geopolitical football. This year, ByteDance named Shou Zi Chew CEO of TikTok, while Pappas, who had served as interim head of TikTok, formally assumed the role of chief operating officer.