TikTok and its Chinese equivalent Douyin have ranked as the world’s second most downloaded app overtaking Facebook and Messenger. According to market analyst Sensor Tower, the short video platforms operated by ByteDance is second only to WhatsApp as the two apps amassed a combined user base of 740 million last year.
TikTok and Douyin are currently facing challenges from both upstart rivals and established players, which are embracing short-form content. One of TikTok’s smaller rivals, Likee — a short video platform owned by Singapore-based Bigo — made its debut among the top 10 most downloaded apps with over 330 million installations, half of which came from India alone.
Established players like Instagram are also embracing the new short video trend popularised by TikTok with its video-music remix feature “Reels“, which the platform had launched in Brazil two months ago. Meenakshi Tiwari, an analyst at technology market research firm Forrester said, “Short video has been popularised by TikTok for sure, but bigger social networking platforms like Facebook and Instagram are aware of it and are doing something about it,” South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported.
Tiwari also noted that another challenge for TikTok is WhatsApp, an end-to-end encrypted messaging app, which has not yet monetised its user base but might do so this year. TikTok has its own monetisation challenges. Despite the app’s rapid international expansion, most of its Beijing-based parent ByteDance’s revenue is generated in China.
As per the report, TikTok Chinese counterpart, Douyin, takes a commission of at least 5 per cent for advertisements produced through its official channel linking influencers and advertisers. While Douyin users are able to generate income from their account via advertisements, TikTok users reportedly don’t make much.
A TikTok spokeswoman said the app’s priority was on user experience but that it was “exploring opportunities to create value for both our community and our brand partners”. As per a Financial Times report, TikTok is reportedly looking at luring advertisers by launching a new feed that would include curated content from TikTok users or original videos created by professional publishers. Reportedly, TikTok was also thinking about allowing users to shop directly from links embedded in brand advertising.
However, competition and revenue generation is not the only challenge faced by TikTok. The app has also found itself at the forefront amidst concerns over privacy and security issues shown by US lawmakers. In response, the app has made efforts to distance the platform from politics, including implementing a ban on political ads and overhauling community guidelines.
While TikTok is trying to be apolitical, its users in India are using the app to express their political opinions. During ongoing protests against the country’s Citizenship (Amendment) Act, related hashtags like #caa have reportedly amassed more than 47 million views. In TikTok’s first-ever transparency report published in late December, the app operator revealed that the most requests to remove or restrict content in the first half of 2019 came from India.
Tiwari said operating in the India market can present a big challenge for social media platforms given the country’s diverse culture and religion. In response, the TikTok spokeswoman said the app’s users “can post videos on whatever is interesting and expressive to them, aside from things like hate speech or other violations of our community guidelines”.
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