What is TikTok? The world’s most downloaded social media app

Ed Barnes
TikTok Logo

A lot of people nowadays know what TikTok is after the app blew up during lockdown over the course of 2020 and 2021 when everyone was stuck in their homes. However, you could be forgiven for not being quite up-to-date with social media’s latest hot ticket.

Originally called A.me and later Douyin, the app was launched by ByteDance in Beijing, China in September 2016. ByteDance decided to make the move to global markets soon after realizing there was a need to get out there before competitors created their own versions.

This led to the app’s rebranding as TikTok in September 2017 and was later launched outside of China in international markets. By January 2018, it was already Number 1 in several countries including Thailand.

Some of the earliest American celebrities on the app included Jimmy Fallon and Tony Hawk. Soon, the likes of Jessica Alba, Justin Bieber, Will Smith, and Jennifer Lopez joined the fray.

It was after that ByteDance bought musical.ly which was well-known for its comedy and lip-sync videos merging the two app’s video databases together. It’s believed ByteDance did this in order to better market TikTok to young American audiences.

In October 2018, it became the most downloaded app in the United States, and in 2019, it was labeled as the 7th most downloaded mobile app of the decade from 2010 to 2019.

How many people use TikTok?

TikTok is comfortably one of the most popular apps in the world. To date, it has over 2 billion total downloads, according to Statista.

Throughout 2020, it was the most downloaded app across iOS and Andriod.

In the United States alone, TikTok has approximately 65 million monthly active users, the largest region. Second is Indonesia, with 22 million monthly active users.

How to edit a caption on TikTok after you've posted

What do people post on TikTok?

TikTok’s software allows you to record videos, add your favorite song or audio already posted to the app, apply effects and edit them.

Sounds often go viral whether it’s a song that’s related to a dance trend or particular audio. Two good examples of songs that went viral because of dance trends are Justin Bieber and the Kid LAROI’s ‘Stay’ as well as Charli XCX’s ‘Unlock It’.

Addison Rae and Charli XCX
Addison Rae in a TikTok duet with Charli XCX to the latter’s viral song ‘Unlock It’

One recent audio that has gone viral is a clip of Adam Driver saying “good soup.” There are also various filters and effects that can be applied to your videos from slow motion to a particular filter. These can come in the form of challenges like the photo crop challenge though TikTok challenges can sometimes do more harm than good with scientists criticizing recent garlic-up-nose and frozen honey trends.

There are also different genres of TikTok from #FinTok to #BookTok to #FoodTok where the social media app’s algorithm will suggest videos with hashtags based on your interests

Most-followed TikTokers

There are several big names on TikTok that started their rise to fame on the platform. Since March 25 2020, Charli D’Amelio became the most followed person on TikTok when she surpassed Loren Gray with 41.4 million followers. She was also the first person to reach 100 million followers though she potentially is going to be overtaken by Khaby Lame.

Bella Poarch Valkyrae
Bella Poarch and Valkyrae on the set of the ‘Build a B**ch’ music video

Other big names on the app are Charli’s sister Dixie D’Amelio, Addison Rae, Zach King, and Bella Poarch. Poarch has gone onto use her TikTok following to build a music career for herself.

Biggest celebrities on TikTok

Plenty of celebrities are now getting on TikTok after seeing the success of the likes of Billie Eilish and Olivia Rodrigo in terms of promoting their brand and music on the platform.

By being on TikTok, artists can promote their new single, come up with challenges, and create new trends. ‘Say So’ by Doja Cat wasn’t initially meant to be a single but after going massively viral with over 13 million videos using the song, it became an official single with a music video.

Britney Spears
Britney Spears’ social media is known for dance routines, inspirational quotes and cool outfits.

Other celebrities who are big on the app are Will Smith, Jessica Chastain, The Rock, and Jason Derulo. There are also plenty of musicians on the app from Britney Spears, Lil Nax X, Charli Puth, and Lizzo. Even superstar Taylor Swift recently created an account.

About The Author

Ed is a former writer for Dexerto based in England who covered entertainment, influencer news, and trends. Ed was previously the editor at The Gryphon, the student newspaper at the University of Leeds, as well as the current Social Media Editor for the Indiependent with articles in several publications.