Brief History of TikTok
Virality and music have been baked into TikTok’s DNA from the start. The app, which was developed by Beijing-based technology firm ByteDance, first hit the Chinese market in September 2016. Originally called A.me, ByteDance rebranded the mobile platform as Douyin (抖音), which is roughly translated to “shaking sound” or “vibrating sound” in English.
Within a year of its release, Douyin had 100M+ users with roughly 1B videos viewed each day, making it the No. 2 most downloaded app on China’s Apple store. In September 2017, ByteDance took Douyin global, launching the international version as TikTok.
While the look and feel of the Chinese and international versions are pretty similar, the two apps actually run on separate servers to comply with Chinese censorship guidelines. In effect, Douyin is only available in China, and TikTok is only available outside of China. But whatever content differences there may be, the addictiveness is truly universal.
Within a year of TikTok’s initial international launch, ByteDance acquired lip sync video app musical.ly for an estimated $1 billion, merging its technology and 100 million active users into the TikTok app. By the end of 2018, ByteDance’s $75 billion valuation made it the world’s most valuable private startup.
As if that weren’t enough of a success story, TikTok now has an estimated 800 million active users worldwide and around 30 million of those are in the United States, where the app was downloaded roughly 120 million times — about a tenth of global downloads for the app.
Remarkably, according to some statistics, 66 percent of global users are under 30, and American users have spent more than $23.1 million on TikTok’s virtual currency.
Part of what has made the TikTok app so engaging for users around the world, beyond its AI-powered personalizations, is advanced music integrations. Users can easily choose background tracks to soundtrack their brief video creations, making TikTok an impressive marketing platform for aspiring influencers, artists, and songwriters alike.