Tatler Deep Dive: All About Tiktok—Origins, Pros and Cons, And More
Since Manila’s months-long lockdown, Internet users have seen an increase in local content creators on the TikTok app. But don’t get it wrong, TikTok’s popularity began years before the coronavirus pandemic.
It’s not hard to imagine how the TikTok that we know today became so popular. Its short-form videos offer easily digestible content to many in Generation Z. Not only that but the videos on the app feature many elements that could easily go viral (including chart-topping songs and trendy dances). There’s also a sense of versatility in what is available; video trends have changed from lip-synch and dance numbers to memes and even quick story narrations.
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The Birth of TikTok
Because TikTok is so popular in the United States, many people are surprised to find that it is headquartered in China, a country infamously known for Internet censorship. Its history is fairly complex as TikTok is actually the amalgam of two different social media platforms: Musical.ly and Douyin.
Musical.ly may sound familiar to some; it had, after all, skyrocketed to popularity in 2015, less than a year after creators Alex Zhu and Louis Yang founded it in 2014. Musical.ly birthed a new generation of Internet superstars including Loren Grey, Cameron Dallas, and Jacob Sartorius. In 2016, after Vine, an app that also hosted short-form videos, shut down operations, many influencers migrated to Musical.ly and continued to create content there.
Around that time, a short-form video app had also simultaneously been launched in China. Douyin, with its runaway success, garnered 100 million users within a year. As such, its operations expanded abroad and in 2017, became hugely popular in Thailand, Japan, and other Asian markets.
Douyin and its parent company, ByteDance, eventually acquired Musical.ly for a billion dollars in 2017. At first, ByteDance marketed the apps per location: Musical.ly in the United States and TikTok to the global audience. Yet in 2018, ByteDance announced that it would merge both apps, birthing the TikTok we know today.
Because of TikTok’s huge market share in the United States, the app had also undergone much scrutiny by suspicious citizens. To appease concerns, ByteDance had appointed an American CEO for TikTok. Kevin Mayer, a former Disney executive, currently spearheads operations out of a Los Angeles office.
Yet, months earlier, President Donald Trump made headlines after he said that the government had plans of banning TikTok. Government officials had previously raised concerns about how the apps handled user data; this, along with rising tensions between US-China relations had doubtless prompted the Republican government to impose a ban. However, the Trump administration has said that if an American company were to acquire TikTok by 15 September 2020, then it would likely be given the freedom to continue operations. At the moment, negotiations are being held with Microsoft to see whether or not the tech giant can acquire the app from ByteDance.
While all the hubbub in the United States may seem surprising, the country is not the first to ban TikTok. Months before Trump’s announcement, India had already banned a slew of Chinese apps including WeChat and TikTok. The Indian government has cited national security as its reason for doing so, although the prohibition also comes at a time of heightened tensions between the two countries for clashes over a shared border in Galwan Valley.
Mainstream TikTok Creators
Despite all the problems that TikTok faces today, no one can deny its huge success both locally and abroad. In the US, TikTok stars have slowly carved a niche for themselves in mainstream media.
The Hype House, for one, is a good example of how Generation Z content creators are building careers for themselves out of a strong TikTok presence. Stars like Charli D’Amelio and Addison Rae, who are both part of the Hype House, have since expanded their reach both in Hollywood and in business.
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In the Philippines, people like Mark Averilla (known as Macoy Dubs) have also found a steady fan base on TikTok. The comedian is best known for creating skits that showcase a distinct brand of Filipino humour. Inka Magnaye, the woman behind Philippine Airlines’ announcements, has also gone viral on TikTok for her incredible voice talent.
So while TikTok does, admittedly, have its fair share of troubles, many users continue to seek it out as an entertainment platform. While the arguments against TikTok come with some validity — after all, user data should be protected, safeguarded, and kept private — its popularity has yet to dip. What’s important to note is that while the Philippine government has yet to pose any sort of restrictions against TikTok, it’s always important to read through their terms of service and deem for yourself whether or not these are safe and acceptable to you. Then, and only then, can you comfortably enjoy yourself on one of the world’s largest social media platforms.