The social network TikTok with short videos is at the peak of popularity today. But not every user, even the most active, knows where it came from, who its creator is, and how it managed to conquer more than a billion people. Let's talk about all this in our article.
What is TikTok
TikTok is a social network and, in combination, video hosting. In functionally it is similar to the Vine platform, the Snapchat messenger and the Instagram social network. The main purpose is to create and view short videos: clips, sketches or reactions to any memes and trends. Most of the content is represented by entertaining stories, because most often funny and interesting videos are posted here. For the background, users usually use popular musical compositions (copyrights are not violated, since the company has all the necessary agreements with the copyright holders). And here it is possible not only to upload a ready-made video, but also to go live.
Did TikTok developers have any idea about such a stunning popularity in 2016? It is difficult to answer, but they definitely had hope for success, as well as a willingness to invest in advertising. In addition, from the history of the appearance of this brand, it is clear that the social network was not created from scratch, but on the foundation of similsr services. And now - about everything in order.
Who is the creator of TikTok
There is no clear and unambiguous answer to the question of who is the “parent” of the social network TikTok. Because it grew from 3 applications at once:
- Xigua Video
- TopBuzz Video
The developer of the first and second is ByteDance Ltd., and the third was acquired and integrated by it into the already developing social network Douyin (Chinese TikTok). Thus, TikTok is considered to have three "fathers": Alex Zhu, Louis Yang, creators of musical.ly, and Zhang Yiming, owner and developer of TopBuzz Video and Xigua Video.
Who is the current owner of TikTok
Today TikTok and its Chinese twin Douyin are owned by ByteDance Ltd. Its founder and CEO is Chinese Internet entrepreneur Zhang Yiming.
Internet holding company ByteDance Ltd. was created in March 2012 to launch the Toutiao mobile app, a news aggregator that competes with the Baidu search engine. Zhang Yiming did not like that the main Chinese search engine gave out the requested information mixed with advertising. He understood that this annoyed not only him, but also most users. Then he came up with Toutiao to make it convenient for people to search for what they need. Its official launch took place in August 2012.
The Toutiao application has been appreciated by both ordinary Internet users and reputable investors. Within 2 years, it acquired approximately 13 million regular visitors. Thus, the news aggregator has stood the test of time and has become a solid foundation for the development of the company.
In 2018, ByteDance received the status of the most valuable startup. It is also seen as a rebel, as many start-ups usually go under the tutelage of influential Chinese corporations almost immediately (for example, Alibaba, Baidu, Tencent). The recalcitrant ByteDance went against this tradition and even began to intercept IT specialists from large companies, enticing them with salaries one and a half times higher than the market ones.
The history of the creation of a social network
The success of Toutiao inspired Zhang Yiming to further develop and expand into other countries. After thinking it over properly, he realized that this would not work with his aggregator. The fact is that in China, which is closed in terms of information, there were relatively few news applications, but abroad the competition among them turned out to be quite high. So he switched to the entertainment niche. A bright unusual application is a product that can be safely presented on the international market. Since then, ByteDance Ltd. started working on social networks where it would be possible to create and upload interesting videos.
The musical.ly mobile app is officially considered the prototype of the TikTok social network. It was possible to record and upload short videos in it, accompanying them with various musical compositions, special effects and filters. Creators Alex Zhu and Louis Yang launched it in August 2014.
The basis for musical.ly was the previously developed study project Cicada, which failed. It was planned that the experts would explain things that are difficult to understand in simple words in the format of 5-minute videos. Investors believed that the idea would work and invested, but users did not accept such Internet enlightenment. In addition, it was not possible to attract experts, it turned out to be quite difficult to record such videos, and not every topic could be easily explained in 5 minutes. As a result, the developers realized that nothing would come of it, and abandoned the project.
The rest of the money, it was decided to save for new ideas. Once Alex Zhu caught the eye of teenagers who, having fun on the street, grimaced to the music. At the same time, they actively took selfies and posted funny photos on the social network. Alex thought that this, in general, is a very good idea. And so the musical.ly application was “born”, where users were given the opportunity to record videos up to 15 seconds long with a soundtrack and upload them to a special social network. On the first day, 500 people used the application.
Over the course of 10 months musical.ly's audience gradually grew, but after the fiasco with the $250,000 Cicada project, the developers wanted more results. To speed up the process, they decided to accompany each video with a logo containing the app's name and website address. And it worked. In just a month, and in the US alone, there was a 10-fold increase in the number of users.
As the musical.ly network developed, new features were added: duets, Q&A, and so on. Later, it even had her own stars: twins from Germany Lisa and Lena (Lisa and Lena), American singer and actress Ariel Rebecca Martin, known under the nickname Baby Ariel. Famous pop singers Selena Gomez, Megan Trainor, Jason Derulo, the Lukas Graham group and others also have accounts here. The service has become an excellent platform for them to promote their albums.
Douyin - Chinese TikTok
In 2014 ByteDance Ltd. launched Toutiao Video, a service for recording and uploading short videos. Almost immediately, it transformed into Xigua Video. Then came TopBuzz Video. The features of this app were similar, but it was aimed at an audience outside of China.
Having gained good experience in creating video services, in September 2016, the Internet company ByteDance Ltd. officially introduced its social network Douyin in China. Seeing that the application aroused great interest among users, the developers decided to release its analogue for the Western audience, only to name it differently. This is how TikTok as we know it today was born.
Why was the name changed? It turns out that another trademark was registered only for legal reasons. If this were not done, the functionality of the application designed for foreigners would have to be adjusted to Chinese law. Therefore, there is no application called TikTok in China - everyone there “sits” in Douyin.
Now the question arises, what does musical.ly have to do with it, because TikTok is just a Western analogue of Douyin? Apparently, Zhang Yiming took advantage of the promising idea of a social network with short videos. While the musical.ly app was developing, ByteDance Ltd. I was just looking for the optimal format, experimenting with my projects in China and other countries.
Merging musical.ly and TikTok
The success that musical.ly has achieved in the international market haunted ByteDance. The company amassed enough money from TikTok ads to acquire musical.ly for $1 billion in November 2017. At first, ByteDance planned that the application would remain completely independent, but then it was decided to transfer all registered users and functionality under the control of TikTok.
It took several months for the full merger of the two social networks. It happened on August 2, 2018. It was after it that TikTok acquired its modern look.
The combination of the two applications was not accepted by everyone with a bang. The intelligence services have suspicions that the acquisition of the social network by a company from China could pose a danger to Americans. In this regard, the US Committee on Foreign Investment initiated an investigation.
Musical.ly had 300 million users in early 2018. Thanks to so many creative people, Douyin's own memes began to appear (for example, Karma's a bitch), and large advertisers began to enter TikTok. As a result, the social network was able to obtain enough funds to enter the global market.
The merger has benefited both musical.ly and TikTok. Both the first and second applications have huge growing audiences not only in China, but also in the US and European countries. Both boast powerful advertisers. Of course, some have expressed doubts about the advisability of rebranding - after all, musical.ly and TikTok have slightly different priorities. Nevertheless, the application continues to be actively downloaded both in the App Store and Google Play.
How TikTok became popular
After the merger with musical.ly, the development of TikTok did not slow down. On the contrary, the ready-made audience of the acquired social network gave additional acceleration, but this seemed to Zhang Yiming not enough. He aimed to reach as many people as possible and invested heavily in this. First of all, he invited ex-top managers of YouTube video hosting and Facebook social network to cooperate, signed agreements with leading advertising agencies. In 2018, ByteDance spent over $1 billion on advertising. There are 4 companies promoting TikTok in the US alone.
In addition to standard advertising, various affiliate programs are widely used to popularize the social network. For example, in 2019, college students were encouraged to refer their classmates to TikTok. They did not pay for this with "live" money, but the referral program gave them the opportunity to receive certificates in well-known stores and catering establishments (Burger King, Walmart, Starbucks and others). Many readily agreed.
A significant contribution to the promotion of the social network was made by celebrities who came here for self-promotion and content creation. Actors Will Smith, Dwayne Johnson, Jessica Alba, Jennifer Lopez, singers Britney Spears, Billy Eilish, Selena Gomez, Christina Aguilera, singer Justin Bieber, musician Elton John, South Korean group BTS, chef Gordon Ramsay, host of popular talk are registered on TikTok show on NBC Jimmy Fallon and many others. Each of the celebrities not only found new fans here among the teenage contingent and young people, but also brought old fans here. In addition, such stars of the fashion industry as Louis Vuitton, Dolce and Gabbana, Gucci, Balenciaga live here. All these are clear signs of the global popularity of the social network.
Another key to the success of TikTok is a large number of exciting formats for various activities: duets, reactions, challenges. The latter require the user to perform certain actions and record this on video. To promote a product or service, challenges are now ordered even by serious companies, encouraging participants with discounts or nice prizes.
TikTok has been downloaded 3 billion times from the Google Play Store and the App Store platform, according to analytics firm SensorTower for 2021. This is the first non-Facebook app to have this many downloads. In addition, TikTok appears on the VIP list of apps where users have spent over $2.5 billion. In addition to it, there are such giants as YouTube, Netflix, Tinder and Tencent Video.
As of January 2021, TikTok was the 7th most popular social networking site in the world with 681 million users at the time. Today it is growing, developing and acquiring new functions. For further promotion, the stake is still placed on aggressive advertising.
The social network seeks to entice the maximum audience of major competitors in those states where the use of the application is allowed. This means that TikTok will continue to expand its reach, reaching new heights. Are there limits to such fantastic popularity? Wait and see.
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