TikTok said Monday it has passed 1 billion monthly users. It’s a remarkable number for a platform launched in August 2018 that has been scrutinized by governments — including the US — that are worried about the data collection practices of its parent company, Beijing-based ByteDance.
TikTok’s popularity soared during the pandemic, becoming the most-downloaded app in the world in the first quarter of 2020, with some 315 million downloads in that quarter alone according to app analytics company SensorTower.
ByteDance reportedly saw its 2020 revenue more than double from the year prior, to $34.3 billion. From its launch to date, SensorTower says TikTok installs have reached 3.2 billion, which includes information from Douyin, the Chinese version of the app. TikTok’s monthly average users in August were up 25 percent from August 2020. In June of this year, ByteDance was valued at $425 billion.
And other apps, seeking to duplicate TikTok’s enormous success, created short-form video products of their own. Facebook-owned Instagram launched Reels last August; Snapchat introduced its in-app TikTok clone Spotlight in November, and even video behemoth YouTube got into the short-form game, debuting its YouTube Shorts in the US earlier this year. But TikTok continued growing; a report earlier this month found TikTok users spend more time watching its content than YouTube users.
On Monday, TikTok chief operating officer Vanessa Pappas thanked users in a video on TikTok for “making TikTok a truly special place.”
ByteDance reportedly postponed its plans for an initial public offering indefinitely amid a crackdown on tech firms by Chinese regulators over the past few months. China is scrutinizing what it considers anti-competitive practices from its big tech firms and how the firms handle customers’ sensitive data
ByteDance and TikTok were among the Chinese tech firms targeted by the Trump administration last year via a series of executive orders blocking their apps from US app stores. None of the orders ever took effect, and in June, President Joe Biden signed an executive order revoking the Trump-era bans. Biden directed the commerce secretary to investigate apps with ties to foreign adversaries like China, that may collect sensitive data from US consumers.
But TikTok also saw some novel bright spots during the pandemic, not the least of which was the fan-made, crowdsourced Ratatouille TikTok musical. It started as a one-off bit based on the 2007 Disney / Pixar film that Broadway fans, composers, choreographers, and others added to, one TikTok at a time. Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical debuted as a one-night-only streaming concert on January 1st, raising more than $1 million for The Actors Fund, which supports performers and workers in the entertainment industry.
Correction September 27th 12:32PM ET: The first name of TikTok’s COO is Vanessa, not Veronica. We regret the error.