The TikTok Boom

If you haven’t heard of the mobile application TikTok, you have probably been living under a rock. This app has been downloaded over a billion times. That’s a lot of downloads. The app is supposed to provide personalized content to the user and that's what makes it so appealing. TikTok uses AI, artificial intelligence, to tailor a stream of short mobile videos into your own personal thread based on how you interact with the content. It is amazing how fast it learns what you like and what you don’t like. The platform offers buttons like comments, likes, share, etc that help the AI learn what you want to see more of. It’s no wonder then, how it can feel addicting to get off the app once you have started binge watching. You're being helped by artificial intelligence to feed you what you want before you even know you want it, next thing you know you just spent an hour on TikTok.

As of today the app reports that it has over 500 million active users, and on average they spend over 52 minutes a day watching these short videos. Most importantly the age demographic is youth, 41% of their users are between the ages 16-24. Those are some crazy stats. Based on the statistics, it's easy to say TikTok is the fastest growing social media platform in the world. You would think, with this in mind, that TikTok was making millions, possibly billions in revenue, right? Well they aren’t really selling anything and their business model is similar to the one Mark Zuckerberg took when he was developing Facebook. They do have some in app purchases that bring in some revenue for them but are crumb sized compared to the long term estimates of how much the company stands to make. When you open the app, usually a very short advertisement is showing but you have the option to skip and get right to your feed. So they do get money from advertisements, and even while you're scrolling you will see one every once and awhile, but very limited. From, “The Social Network”, the movie about the production of Facebook, the character acting as Mark Zuckerberg claims that advertisements aren’t cool and implies that if they monetize the site too early it would drive users away. Instead, he prioritized growth, and it turned out pretty well for him and his company. TikTok is taking a similar business plan and I think it will work out for them in a similar fashion.

Eventually, TikTok will have to decide when they have gotten big enough that they want to prioritize generating revenue from their application. This might be sooner than later with the COVID-19 forcing many users to be on the app much more because they are stuck at home. There are also, at home, quarantine challenges going around that are making TikTok more attractive. For example, there is one challenge I have been seeing since the COVID-19 came out, where this guy is trying to chip a ping pong ball, with a golf wedge, into a canteen that a ping pong ball can barely fit, even dropping it by hand. I saw another challenge where the user used a similar golf wedge to chip an xbox game disc into the console, and he actually made it. I was beyond impressed as it must have taken hundreds of tries unless he got very lucky.

That is what's so great about this application. The diversity of its content for each user is truly remarkable. It will show dance videos to those who want to see dances, politics to those interested in politics, sports to those interested in sports, and even business tips or psychological information for those interested in those topics. It really is an app for all. Each user is going to find the app to be useful to them in a different way than the next person, and that’s the beauty in it. So if you are one of the few who hasn’t downloaded this fantastic app, I suggest you do. You won’t regret it. All you need to do is download it, set your preferences/interests, and let artificial intelligence do the rest!

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