Behind TikTok: ByteDanceTikTok is a video-sharing social media app launched on the international market in 2017. The platform is owned by Beijing-based tech company ByteDance, which is behind the release of several popular apps including Douyin, Toutiao, and Lemon8. In 2023, ByteDance was the leading unicorn worldwide, with a valuation of 200 billion U.S. dollars. The company monetizes its brands by offering ad spaces, with TikTok’s short video offering being particularly suited to host bite-sized commercial messaging. While mainstream social media platforms have been struggling with protecting their growth, ByteDance saw almost 30 billion U.S. dollars in revenues in the second quarter of 2023, up by 40 percent compared the corresponding quarter in 2022.
TikTok users: young, eager, and connectedTikTok allows users to create, edit, and share short-form video clips that are enhanced with filters and accompanied by the latest music trends. The platform comes as a free-to-download app, a factor that made onboarding easy for mobile users - who currently represent over 90 percent of the global digital population.
The majority content creators on TikTok are between 18 and 24 years old, a factor that contributes to the platform being popular among Millennial and Gen Z users: as of January 2024, 19 percent of TikTok users were men aged between 18 and 24 years, while women in the same age group accounted for around 18 percent of the platform’s user base.
A possible TikTok ban?In 2023, TikTok faced a partial ban on institutional and governmental devices in several countries: in February, European Parliament staff were recommended to remove TikTok from their personal devices, and in March the UK banned TikTok downloads from government mobile phones – a moved approved by over half of the country. Australia followed, banning the app from government-owned devices in April.
As TikTok was the favorite short-video social media platform among U.S. users in 2022, a possible ban would favor ByteDance’s largest competitors in the region – namely Meta and YouTube, which launched short-video formats Instagram reels and YouTube Shorts in 2020 on the wave of TikTok’s popularity.
ByteDance is not exactly new to controversies: in 2020, the company lost access to the Indian market to an extended apps ban. This prompted the United States government to announced it was considering removing Chinese social media platform from its market due to alleged data collection malpractices. The Biden administration later revoked the executive order, but the tug of war between TikTok and institutions continued well into 2022. Despite its proven resilience, losing the U.S market will represent a hard blow to ByteDance, as the country was the largest market for the social video app, counting approximately 150 million users in January 2024. While the March 2023 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing of TikTok CEO Shou Chew made clear that the motion to ban the popular social video app would have bi-partisan support, U.S. citizens opinion remains ambivalent.