In July 2021, TikTok reached the milestone of three billion downloads worldwide, despite being banned in India in June 2020 and losing a considerably large audience. TikTok app downloads peaked in the first quarter of 2020, reaching over 313.5 million. Despite app downloads fluctuating between 2021 and the beginning of 2023, the popular short video platform still ranks as one of the leading apps both worldwide and in the United States.
Short-form videoTikTok’s immense popularity mirrors one of the most significant technological trends of the past decade, the shift from desktop to mobile. It also reflects recent changes in internet user behavior, such as shorter attention span resulting in short-form video platforms becoming major players. This phenomenon was especially highlighted during the coronavirus pandemic, with quality, storytelling, and accessibility standing out as main reasons to watch short videos. Whether it is professionally produced or user-generated – online video content is proving vastly popular with social media consumers, and it is, therefore, expanding across established platforms like Instagram and serving as a springboard medium for newcomer applications like TikTok. Short-form video did not just command high engagement among online users, but also achieved the largest return on investment (ROI) according to a survey of global marketers conducted in June 2022.
A possible TikTok ban? Leading markets and expectationsAs of the beginning of 2023, the United States was the largest market for the social video app, counting approximately 113.2 million users. Indonesia followed, with 110 million TikTok users, while TikTok’s audience in Brazil was over 82 million users. (1299807). In 2023, TikTok faced a partial ban on institutional and governmental devices in several countries: in February 2023, European Parliament staff were recommended to remove TikTok from their personal devices, and in March of the same year, the UK banned TikTok downloads from government mobile phones – a move that gained the approval of over half of UK respondents in a survey conducted the previous month. Australia followed, banning the app from government-owned devices in April 2023.
In 2020, the U.S. Trump administration announced it was considering banning Chinese-developed social media platforms TikTok and WeChat due to alleged data collection malpractices. While an executive order aiming at barring the apps from U.S. app stores and restricting access to users in the country was put in place in September 2020, the apps were never removed from the U.S. digital ecosystem. While the Biden administration revoked the executive order in June 2021, the tug of war between TikTok and U.S. institutions continued well into 2022 . TikTok was pushed to a major data-hosting restructuring by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). In March 2022, TikTok entered into talks with Oracle Corporation for the so-called “Project Texas,” which planned for the company to store all their data on U.S. users on U.S. soil. The project, which cost approximately 1.5 billion U.S. dollars, was part of the attempts from TikTok to gain the trust of U.S. institutions. While the March 2023 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, especially among TikTok users.
As of March 2023, approximately 30 percent of U.S. citizens reported to strongly approve for the app to be banned or having its original owners’ stakes sold. In comparison, only 17 percent of TikTok users strongly approved of these solutions, and 40 percent disapproved of the possibility. Overall, U.S. users identifying their political orientation as Republicans were more likely than Democrats to approve or strongly approve of TikTok being banned or sold.
TikTok users & creatorsWhile global administrations conduct their security checks on the app, the over 1.7 billion TikTok users and content creators worldwide are left hanging on the edge of their seats, especially in key markets such as the United States and among key demographics, such as young content creators.
TikTok allows users to create, edit, and share short-form video clips that are enhanced with filters and accompanied by the latest music trends. While this premise may not sound particularly appealing to internet users over the age of 35, the platform has proven to be highly successful with younger audiences. As of January 2023, 21.5 percent of TikTok users were women aged between 18 and 24 years, while men in the same age group accounted for around 17 percent of the platform’s user base, while as of September 2022, the majority of content creators on TikTok were aged between 18 and 24 years old, a factor that contributes to the platform being popular among Millennial and Gen Z users. In 2022, 67 percent of TikTok users in the United States were 18 or 19 years old, a generation of heavy smartphone users constantly in touch with trending content.
By following, commenting, and liking other people’s videos, TikTokers have created a new ecosystem of online video content and even produced their own net of teen celebrities. In June 2022, Senegalese-born Italian content creator Khabane "Khaby" Lame became TikTok most followed personality, surpassing U.S. influencer Charli D’Amelio. As of March 2023, Lame counted over 155 million followers, while D’Amelio audience was of about 150 million followers.