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Original author(s)Alex Zhu, Luyu Yang
Developer(s) Inc. (April 2014–November 2017)
ByteDance (November 2017–August 2018)
Initial releaseAugust 2014; 4 years ago (2014-08)
Operating systemiOS, Android
Available in35 languages
List of languages
Arabic, Bengali, Burmese, Cebuano, English, French, German, Gujarati, Hindi, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Javanese, Kannada, Korean, Malay, Malayalam, Marathi, Persian, Odia, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Simplified Chinese, Spanish, Swedish, Tagalog, Tamil, Telugu, Thai, Traditional Chinese, Turkish, Ukrainian, Vietnamese
TypeVideo sharing
LicenseFreeware (stylized as was a social media service headquartered in Shanghai with an office in Santa Monica, California,[1][2] on which platform users create and share short videos. The first prototype was released in April 2014, and the official version was launched in August of that year.[3][4] Through the app, users could create 15-second to 1 minute lip-syncing music videos and choose sound tracks to accompany them, use different speed options (time-lapse, fast, normal, slow motion, and epic) and add pre-set filters and effects. The app also allowed users to browse popular "musers", content, trending songs, sounds and hashtags, and uniquely interact with their fans.

In June 2016, had over 90 million registered users, up from 10 million a year earlier.[5] By the end of May 2017, the app reached over 200 million users.[6]

Having owned the app TikTok, ByteDance bought, Inc on November 9, 2017, and combined the two apps, and TikTok, into a single app named after TikTok on August 2, 2018.[7]


Founding[edit] Inc. was founded by longtime friends Alex Zhu and Luyu Yang in Shanghai, China.[8][9] Before launching, Zhu and Yang teamed up to build an education social network app, through which users could both teach and learn different subjects through short-form videos (3–5 minutes long). After having investors fund this venture, it took them about 6 months to build the product. However, once launched, this online self-learning platform did not get enough traction and the content produced was not engaging enough. With some money left from the original investment for this failed venture, Zhu and Yang started to look for new ideas.[10] They decided to shift their focus to the entertainment industry. The main idea was to create a platform that incorporates music and video in a social network. The team’s judgment at the time was that the short music video was not very widely popular before, and the fundamental reason was that although people are willing to watch short videos, the supply was small, as there were too few people who were willing to shoot and share. Therefore,'s entry point is to introduce a large amount of music, so that everyone can easily integrate music into the video, and a less fun video will become fun at once.[11] The first version of was officially launched in August 2014.[12]


At the beginning, the team launched the app in both the Chinese and American markets. However, compared to the domestic market's tepid reaction, their app has been particularly popular in the American teenager market. As their team size is small, they decided to mainly focus on the U.S. market. The product quickly accumulated a group of loyal users, although the total number of the users is not very large, the activity level of the users is very high.[13]

In July 2015, the app began to attract millions of users, allowing musers ( users) to lip-sync to millions of songs. climbed up to the number 1 position in the iOS App Store,[14] becoming the most-downloaded free app in over 30 countries, including the US, Canada, UK, Germany, Brazil, Philippines and Japan. In May 2016, reached 70 million downloads, with over 10 million new videos posted every day.[10]

In June 2016, Coca-Cola launched its #ShareACoke campaign on, which introduced's "User-Generated Ads" model.[15] On July 24, 2016, during VidCon, officially launched, its new live video streaming platform.[16]

Merger into TikTok[edit]

On November 9, 2017, the Wall Street Journal reported that Inc had been sold to Bytedance Technology Co., which operates the program Toutiao, for as much as US $1 billion.[17] However, Recode estimated that the sale would be for around US $800 million. On August 2, 2018, Bytedance consolidated the user accounts of and TikTok, merging the two apps into one and keeping the title TikTok.

Features[edit] users could record 15-second to 1-minute videos in one or multiple shots, lip-syncing to sounds or comedy. The platform also enables editing, through 14 pre-set filters and effects that allow to change the speed or reverse the motion of the recording. Additionally, also has a feature to create shorter videos, named "live moments", which are essentially GIFs with music.[18]

Users on this platform could "remuse" (reuse) sounds created by other users, which instills a new level of engagement with the content. Other ways in which users could interact with each other is through features such as "Ask a Question" and "Duet". On this regard, had an option called "Best Fan Forever", through which users can select certain followers who can participate in duets with them.[18]

Users could also send private messages to their friends using the feature.[18] "Trends"[edit]'s structure allowed the viral dissemination of trends throughout the platform. The hashtags that were popular on this social network usually make reference to bits of pop culture and trends among the internet world. Because of its massive usage, a lot of events launched within the app could become viral global events, especially among teenagers. One of the most notable campaigns launched by was the "Don't Judge Challenge", which became widespread on the platform, as millions of teenagers around the world participated.[19]


On January 28, 2016, Business Insider released a survey, in which "10 of the 60 [interviewed teenagers] listed as the app they were most excited about."[20]

Notable users[edit]

Active users with higher rates of popularity were assigned crowns by Some users of the platform gained great traction and huge following not only within, but also outside it as well. Baby Ariel, also known as Ariel Martin, who as of May 2017 had 19 million followers on alone,[21] is one of users that gained major media attention through In April 2016, she was interviewed live on Good Morning America.[22] Mackenzie Ziegler and Maddie Ziegler became more famous because of it when they finished Dance Moms.[23] Jacob Sartorius, who later became a social media influencer, promoted his first single "Sweatshirt" on, after which the song reached number 10[24] on the iTunes Store. In June 2016, it was reported that Sartorius had signed with United Talent Agency.[25] Loren Gray Beech and Ariana Renee are also social media influencers who got started on[26] Israeli schoolgirl Anna Zak became a celebrity in Israel after building millions of followers on and securing a sponsorship deal with Adidas.[27]

Rights, permissions and licensing[edit]

In June 2016, signed its first major label deal with Warner Music Group, allowing its music to be licensed for use on the platform and the app users to interact with WMG's artists and songs.[28] Besides continuing to work with UK-based 7digital, also teamed up with Apple Music in April 2017 permitting users to sign up to the streaming service to listen to full songs and cut out a fifteen-second segment of the songs for lip-syncing on the platform.[29][30]


  1. ^ Lin, Liza; Winkler, Rolfe (2017-11-10). "Social-Media App Is Acquired for as Much as $1 Billion". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2018-10-19.
  2. ^ "Company Overview of, Inc". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2018-10-19.
  3. ^ Baig, Mirza M. S. (2018-02-12). "How did the founders of made $1b in 2016." Medium. Retrieved 2019-01-11.
  4. ^ "How a failed education startup turned into, the most popular app you've probably never heard of". Business Insider Malaysia. 2016-05-28. Retrieved 2019-01-11.
  5. ^ Rys, Dan. Fresh Off a Big Funding Round, Signs Its First Major Label Deal with Warner Music. Billboard. Retrieved June 29, 2016.
  6. ^ ", Apple Music Ink New Partnership, With More to Come". Billboard. Retrieved May 30, 2017.
  7. ^ Kundu, Kishalaya (2018-08-02). " App To Be Shut Down, Users Will Be Migrated to TikTok". Beebom. Retrieved 2019-04-30.
  8. ^ Spangler, Todd (September 30, 2016). "'s Is Now Bigger Than Twitter's Periscope on iOS (Study)". Variety. Retrieved October 2, 2016.
  9. ^ "Why is a short video app made by a Chinese team on the top of the iOS list in the US?".
  10. ^ a b Carson, Biz. How a failed education startup turned into, the most popular app you've probably never heard of. Business Insider. Retrieved June 20, 2016.
  11. ^ "Why is a short video app made by a Chinese team on the top of the iOS list in the US?".
  12. ^ "How a failed education startup turned into, the most popular app you've probably never heard of". Business Insider Singapore. May 28, 2016. Retrieved September 5, 2018.
  13. ^ "Why is a short video app made by a Chinese team on the top of the iOS list in the US?".
  14. ^ Newlands, Murray. The Origin and Future Of America's Hottest New App: Forbes. Retrieved June 20, 2016.
  15. ^ "Share a Coke: Turning Lyrics into Language - The Shorty Awards". Retrieved September 5, 2018.
  16. ^ Wallenstein, Andrew. May Be the Spoiler in Livestream Race with Launch of Variety. Retrieved June 24, 2016.
  17. ^ Lin, Liza; Winkler, Rolfe (November 9, 2017). "Social-Media App Is Acquired for as Much as $1 Billion". The Wall Street Journal. New York City, New York, United States. Retrieved November 12, 2017.
  18. ^ a b c "What is Tik Tok (formally". November 25, 2017. Retrieved September 5, 2018.
  19. ^ Hamill, Jasper Don't Judge Challenge: Teens declare war on body shaming by making themselves up to 'look ugly'. Mirror. Retrieved June 25, 2016.
  20. ^ Kosoff, Maya. 60 teenagers reveal what they think is cool — and what isn't — in 2016. Business Insider. Retrieved June 9, 2016.
  21. ^ Usborne, Simon (December 10, 2016). "'It's crazy, for sure': meet the stars of". The Guardian. Retrieved January 3, 2017.
  22. ^ 'Baby Ariel' Talks, the Explosively Popular App for Teens. ABC News. Retrieved June 20, 2016.
  23. ^ Nava, Kathleen (September 16, 2016). "'Dance Moms' 2016 News & Update: What Do Chloe Lukasiak And Mackenzie Ziegler Have In Common After Leaving Show?". GameNGuide. Retrieved January 3, 2017.
  24. ^ Jacob Sartorius 'Sweatshirt' American iTunes Chart Performance. iTunes Charts. Retrieved July 1, 2016.
  25. ^ Jarvey, Natalie. UTA Sains Star Jacob Sartorius (Exclusive). Hollywood Reporter. June 30, 2016.
  26. ^ Reeve, Elspeth (July 20, 2016). "90 MILLION TWEENS, A FREE APP, ONE GOAL: FAME". Elle. Retrieved January 3, 2017.
  27. ^ loudly Liat Katz, Maariv, 12/03/17
  28. ^ "Fresh Off a Big Funding Round, Signs Its First Major Label Deal with Warner Music". Billboard. Retrieved 2018-10-10.
  29. ^ " announces Apple Music integration | Complete Music Update". Retrieved 2018-10-16.
  30. ^ " syncs up with Apple Music". Recode. Retrieved 2018-10-16.