To many, TikTok is simply an app that exists in a widely-populated realm of the internet that they spend looking into from the outside. It's an entire thing, with a well-established community of creators who seem to get the platform better than anyone else. You either know TikTok by now, or you don't. You've probably seen at least one compilation video on YouTube anyway.
As such, the wildfire success of TikTok has caught a lot of people by surprise, both older Gen-Y members like myself and tech insiders included. TikTok is insanely popular, having recently capped 1.5 billion global downloads, according to a report from Sensor Tower. Its tally for this year of 614 million downloads has outstripped Instagram in global downloads worldwide, and right now, TikTok boasts more than 200 million more downloads than the image-sharing giant over the course of 2019, having added more than 500 million new members in just 9 months.
TikTok remains the only app in the top 5 most downloaded apps on both the Apple Store and Google Play not owned by Facebook, slotting in to place below Messenger and Whatsapp, but above Instagram and Facebook's core app.
With such runaway success, it's hard not to speculate as to whether TikTok is simply a flash in the pan, or whether or not they've cracked a formula for digestible content that could pose a genuine threat to the fortunes of Facebook's suite of products in the near future. The fact remains that they've managed to capture the attention of Gen-Z and emerging markets like India (a country that counts for almost a third of its downloads) on a scale that we haven't quite seen before.
Right now, it would seem the folks running the show at Facebook are genuinely concerned. Facebook launched video-sharing app Lasso late last year, attempting to establish it as a place to share content in markets that TikTok had not yet launched in. Needless to say it hasn't really caught on.
Instagram also has a TikTok-esque video editing platform called Reels on the way, which led many to accuse FB of "firing up the app-cloning machine."
Even with all of this put together, it's still strangely difficult hard to imagine TikTok — an app that by its very nature relies more on the following of established personalities, cutting too deep into the user base of Instagram. If you do already use TikTok, you probably use Instagram anyway. If you don't, signing up at this point still doesn't offer much of an alternative to the type of engagement that's largely driven Instagram's success.
As we also saw with the rise of the Instagram Story and the demise of Snapchat, Facebook are more than capable of killing a competitor by simply ripping off their key formula and integrating it into one of their own platforms. But for now, it's certainly fun to see a new challenger put the scares up Zuckerberg and co.