By Aarti Devjani
Designed to inspire creativity and bring joy through short-form videos, TikTok comes across as a fun and addicting media platform in which users can create 10-second videos primarily built around music. Despite only launching in 2018, TikTok has enjoyed a dramatic rise to become one of the most popular social media apps on the planet. The sensational social media platform has 800 million active users, and it has been downloaded over two billion times worldwide. Over the past two years, TikTok has become a vital tool where young people can find their claim to fame, interact with personalities and brands, and raise awareness for causes in which they care.
In September 2016, TikTok was initially launched as Douyin in China. In the following year, the app was launched by ByteDance for markets outside of China. On November 9, 2017, ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, invested approximately $1 billion to buy Musical.ly. Musical.ly, initially released in August 2014, was a video platform for social media that allowed users to create short lip-sync and comedy videos. Looking forward to boosting the US digital platform's young user base, TikTok merged with Musical.ly in August 2018. To create a larger video community, existing accounts and data were consolidated into one app, titled TikTok. This ended Musical.ly and made TikTok a worldwide app. Currently, TikTok and Douyin both use the same software, but maintain separate networks in order to comply with Chinese censorship restrictions.
After merging with Musical.ly in August, downloads increased and TikTok became the most downloaded app in the US in October 2018. Soon after the merger, the popularity of TikTok skyrocketed and today, TikTok’s growth is showing no signs of stopping. In the first quarter of 2020, there were a total of 315 million TikTok downloads worldwide. This is the highest amount of downloads an app has ever received in a given quarter.
The surge in downloads is most likely a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Under lockdown, consumers were spending increasingly more time on their mobile phones and seeking out entertainment and new ways to stay connected, which in turn, drove TikTok downloads.
Source by Sydney Hargrove, @sydneysscrapbook
The TikTok loading screen, which appears when users open the app.
At this point, most people must have heard about talks of TikTok being banned. Many countries have already or are in the talks of banning TikTok due to numerous security and moral issues. The United States also began to impose a ban on the app because it feared that the app may be giving user information to the Chinese government. On August 6, 2020, President Trump placed an executive order banning transactions with TikTok in 45 days, if it was not sold by ByteDance. In response, TikTok filed a request for a preliminary injunction to prevent the app from being banned by the Trump administration. The preliminary injunction was approved by Justice Carl J. Nichols on September 27, 2020.
Soon after Trump’s executive orders were declared, numerous companies began to bid to purchase the app. In early August, Microsoft said it was bidding to buy TikTok. Soon after, Walmart announced it was teaming up with Microsoft to buy the app. Oracle later joined and began talks to purchase the app in mid-August. Microsoft ended its bid in mid-September, after confirming that ByteDance would not sell its U.S. TikTok operations to the American tech giant.
That announcement left Oracle and Walmart in the race for TikTok.
A few weeks later, the U.S. government tentatively approved of a deal for Oracle and Walmart to acquire a 20% stake in a new U.S.-based company called ByteDance. This would deter any ban on downloads of the Chinese-based TikTok in the United States. Ideally in the near future, TikTok Global will be a new company created to manage the U.S. operations and most of the users in the rest of the world.
“...there are numerous individuals who believe that the controversy over TikTok is absurd and completely avoidable.”
Despite all of the arrangements and deals made, the ban of TikTok has not been completely averted. If ByteDance does not relinquish its control, there may be further conflicts. A massive number of active users do not want to app to be banned, and there are numerous individuals who believe that the controversy over TikTok is absurd and completely avoidable.
“I feel like it's unnecessary to ban TikTok now that it's majority American-owned. Before, it was understandable since it was a national security threat but now, there are more important things to worry about,” said senior Khushi Shah.
Another NHP senior has similar thoughts as she agrees with Shah, and considers the ban to be needless.
“TikTok is an app that allows Gen Z to bond with each other, and with President Trump attempting to ban the app it feels like it is a threat to our unity and our ability to express our opinions," said senior Preesha Mody.
At this point, the situation is unpredictable and it is hard to claim whether the deal goes ahead or not. Either way, most users will not notice any difference. As of right now, TikTok users will still be able to make entertaining videos and the social media platform will continue to be a catalyst for change.