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Four things to know about what makes TikTok vibrate

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In less than three years, the TikTok short video app has grown from humble origins to become one of the most popular apps in the world, becoming the most downloaded nongame app in May. So far, it has been downloaded more than 2 billion times and has gathered more than 800 million users per month.

Known in its original Chinese market as Douyin, the addictive application is at the forefront of a new generation of software from China and is one of the first to be successful international. But this success has also sparked international scrutiny and even controversy. Last week, the app was banned in India, and it was criticized in the EU for its data protection policy.

Here are four essential things you should know about this global phenomenon.

What are the origins of TikTok?

In 2016, the fast-growing technological unicorn ByteDance launched an app called Douyin, a Chinese response to Musical.ly, an American social media platform that allows users to create videos where they synchronize their lips and dance. A year later, ByteDance bought Musical.ly for around $ 800 million and renamed it TikTok in 2018.

In its early days, TikTok, the overseas version of Douyin, was widely regarded as a lip sync app with many of its popular videos focused on people imitating songs. But now the app has become an online community where people can watch, share and create short videos covering a wide range of categories, like playing comedy sketches and even expressing political views, with options for using various effects. filters and filters.

How big is TikTok internationally?

TikTik is now available in more than 150 countries with around 800 million monthly active users, according to social media advertising agency Wallaroo Media. At least 120 million people use TikTok every month in India, which is one of the key application markets. In the U.S., the app has approximately 65 million monthly active users.

In June, TikTok raised $ 90.7 million in user spending, winning the crown as the world’s highest-paying nongame application for the month, according to research firm SensorTower.

TikTok has been downloaded more than 2 billion times from the App Store of Apple Inc. and the Play Store of Google LLC. India is the main source of these downloads, with a share of around 30%, followed by China with 9.7% and the United States with 8.2%.

Why is it in trouble internationally?

As it attempted to succeed on a global scale, TikTok came under increased scrutiny from governments concerned about its lax privacy protections and its status as a Chinese business. The latest redesign comes from the United States, where TikTok has around 65 million monthly active users. In an interview with Fox News on Monday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said his country was “watching” ban TikTok, and he persuaded the Americans not to use the app.

The warning of the senior American diplomat follows that of TikTok removal of app stores in India, where at least 120 million people use the app each month. In its unprecedented ban, India accused TikTok of engaging in activities detrimental to the national security of the country. The measure came in the context of a deterioration in Sino-Indian relations by a border skirmish that left at least 20 dead among Indian soldiers.

In addition, TikTok is also facing an investigation by the European Data Protection Council, which has set up a working group to examine its data processing activities and privacy practices in the European Union after a Member of the European Parliament expressed concerns about the potential risks of the application for security and confidentiality.

Closer to home, TikTok may be the first social media platform to make the decision to leave Hong Kong, with a spokesperson citing “recent events” of the move, without being more specific.

Can TikTok solve its problems?

To address data security concerns, ByteDance has taken a number of steps.

The appointment of former Walt Disney streaming chief Kevin Mayer as CEO of TikTok is considered the company’s biggest move to conquer Washington. TikTok said that an application “run by a US CEO with hundreds of key employees and leaders here in the United States” would provide “a safe and secure application experience for our users.”

In Europe, TikTok accelerates localization by shifting responsibility for the protection of personal data of its European users from its American entity in its Irish and British branches. The company also opened a main European office in London, which TikTok would have considered as a possible location for its global headquarters.

Last but not least, TikTok has also set up a content moderation committee made up of external technology and security experts who are responsible for developing application content policies on child safety, hatred, misinformation and other potential problems.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com) and editor Marcus Ryder (marcusryder@caixin.com)

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