Written by Audie
Have you heard of the latest social media sensation called TikTok? It's a new app that lets users share videos of themselves singing and dancing to popular songs. With more than 1 billion downloads since it launched in 2016, the app is particularly popular among young people who are under 18.
What is TikTok?
TikTok is taking the world by storm with its catchy concept and addicting nature. The app officially came onto the scene in 2016 after a merger with a similar app, Musical.ly. Both apps let users share short-form vertical videos of them lip-syncing and dancing to popular songs.
It's very similar to the Vine app that Twitter released back in 2013 that was shuttered in 2017. TikTok videos can be up to fifteen seconds long, which is more than twice as long as the Vine's limit of six seconds. TikTok also places a greater emphasis on sharing videos set to popular music and responding to those videos through engagement techniques.
Engagement with the platform happens by reacting to videos with a video of your own, liking the video, or pressing the heart button to love it and leave a comment. Videos can be shared with hashtags to be part of a broader topic, much like how hashtags work on Twitter and Facebook.
Pre-shot videos can be shared on the service and can be up to one minute in length.
Who uses TikTok?
The primary audience for TikTok trends on the younger side. Teens create accounts and share videos of themselves lip-syncing to popular songs. This young audience has grown with over 500 million downloads in the last two years. While the young user base isn't inherently problematic, TikTok has faced trouble over not adhering to privacy laws.
Just recently the FTC slapped TikTok with a $5.7 million dollar fine for not verifying age for its users. The FTC ruling will change how the app works to prevent under 13-year-olds from publishing videos using the app. The FTC ruling came about after a regulatory group brought attention to TikTok's lack of adherence to U.S. child privacy laws.
Why is TikTok so popular?
One of the reasons TikTok is gaining so much popularity with teens is that unlike Snapchat, the shared videos do not disappear. These videos are available on a user's profile until the user specifically deletes them.
Because videos stick around, TikTok has plenty of brand power that can be used to advertise to young audiences. The inclusion of popular music is also a massive draw to TikTok.
You can upload a snippet of any audio you like, including audio you don't have the rights to distribute. This audio is then included in the TikTok library for anyone to use. This aspect of the app has led to some controversy surrounding music rights and artist compensation.
Aside from the FTC fining TikTok, the app also faces increased scrutiny for its young userbase. A group in the UK recently surveyed 40,000 young children and teens who use the app and found that 25% of children had livestreamed themselves to a stranger. That survey also found that 1 in 20 children was asked to remove clothing during a live stream.
TikTok profiles for children under 13 are set to private by default, and they now feature more restrictions after the FTC ruling. However, sexually abusive comments and content that promote self-harm can still be exposed to young children on the platform.