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TikTok is a short-form mobile videos app.


TikTok is a short-form mobile videos app, and the international version of Chinese video app Douyin. Both applications are owned by Chinese company ByteDance. Originally launched in 2016, TikTok gained widespread popularity in the US after it was merged with, a lip-synch video app, in 2018. As of 2021, TikTok has been downloaded in over 150 countries, has over 1 billion users, and has over 200 million downloads in the US alone.Morning Consult ranked TikTok as the third fastest growing brand of 2020, after only Zoom and Peacock. Cloudflare ranked TikTok as the most popular website of 2021, usurping Google.


TikTok was created after parent company ByteDance (established in 2012 by Zhang Yiming in Beijing) launched Douyin, a short-form mobile video app, in China in 2016. There, it quickly gained widespread popularity. Later that year, Bytedance launched the international version of Douyin, giving it the new name TikTok. TikTok continued to gain popularity after ByteDance acquired for $1 billion in 2017. The two companies were merged together a year later, in 2018.

A screenshot of the website.

By late 2018, TikTok's popularity continued to grow after it surpassed Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Youtube in downloads. The app topped 1 billion installs on the App Store and Google Play in early 2019, and surpassed 2 billion downloads a year later in April 2020. In the US, the app is especially popular with teenagers and people in their early twenties (often referred to as Gen Z), who account for 47.4% of active users, according to Statista.


TikTok's rise in popularity has not been without controversy, with politicians in the US and abroad raising concerns about data security and censorship.

Data Security

Politicians from the US and abroad have raised concerns about the security of the data that users share with TikTok. While social media platforms routinely collect user data, TikTok collects over fifty different kinds of data from users thirteen and older, including age, username, gender, content of messages, email address, and tracking data of online activity. Critics raise concern about the data privacy of the app, particularly in regards to how much access the Chinese government has to user data in the US and elsewhere. ByteDance itself has said their US and China operations are handled separately, with TikTok offices and servers being based in the US and Singapore and Douyin servers and offices being based in China.


TikTok has also been accused of censorship, with critics saying the app hides or removes certain material that may be critical of the Chinese government and its practices. In 2019, the Guardian reported that TikTok moderators were instructed to ban videos that mentioned Tiananmen Square, Tibetan independence, or the banned religious group Falun Gong, and that the app was removing videos referencing the then-ongoing Hong Kong protests. ByteDance responded that the leaked documents the Guardian had access to were old and the policies had not been updated to single out any one specific organization, cause, or region.

Bans and Potential Bans

As a result of this controversy, TikTok has been banned, or has had bans against it proposed, in several major countries around the world. On June 29, 2020, India passed a nationwide ban on Chinese-owned apps, including TikTok. As of July 2021, the ban still remains in effect.

In August of 2020, then President Donald Trump signed an executive order proclaiming that the US would be banning TikTok and Chinese-owned app WeChat from US app stores, unless they found a US company to purchase the service. Originally given fifteen days to find a buyer, this time period was extended multiple times, with US companies Oracle and Walmart both expressing interest. Ultimately, neither the ban nor the sale to a US company came to fruition. Ultimately, President Joseph Biden revoked Trump's executive order in June of 2021.


August 10, 2021
TikTok overtakes Facebook as the most downloaded social media app in the world.
June 2021
US President Joe Biden revokes Trump's executive order banning TikTok.
August 2020
US President Donald Trump signs an executive order banning TikTok and WeChat from US app stores unless they can find a US buyer.
June 29, 2020
India passes a ban on TikTok and several other Chinese-owned apps.
April 2020
TikTok and Douyin top over 2 billion downloads.
February 2019
TikTok reaches 1 billion installs on the App Store and Google Play.
August 2018
TikTok merges with
November 2017
ByteDance buys, a short video lip-syncing app, for $800 million to $1 billion.
ByteDance launches Douyin, a short-form video app, in China, and launches the international version under the name TikTok later that year.
TikTok parent company ByteDance is incorporated in Beijing, China by Zhang Yiming.



Further Resources


About | TikTok - Real Short Videos


How TikTok Is Rewriting the World



March 10, 2019

TikTok: What It Is, How It Works, and Why It's Popular


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What is TikTok? - Everything You need to Know in 2022

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November 19, 2021
ISLAMABAD (AP) -- Pakistan's media regulating authority on Friday again lifted a ban on TikTok, this time after four months, following assurances from the popular Chinese video-sharing service that it would control the spread of indecent content.
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