Chinese short video platform Tik Tok was the world’s most downloaded iOS app in the first quarter of 2018, a landmark that founder and CEO Zhang Yiming on Monday humbly called a “small success.”
2017 saw photo-editing app Meitu take the world by storm, and in 2018 it looks like Tik Tok will be the next viral app to come out of China, after being downloaded an estimated 45.8 million times through Apple’s App Store, according to market research firm Sensor Tower.
The app, which Sensor Tower describes as “a sensation in China,” allows users to create and share their own music videos through editing short clips and adding various special effects.
Known as Douyin in the Chinese market, the app is the latest big success for parent company Bytedance, the developer behind news aggregator Toutiao, a platform that mines data and uses AI technology to deliver tailored content to 120 million domestic users.
Toutiao has grown at such a rapid pace, that on Monday it was rumored to be on the verge of a new round of funding seeking 35 billion US dollars. A statement from the company denied the speculation as false, but the rumors and figures being quoted by media show just how quickly the company has grown.
In 2017, Bytedance spent one billion US dollars on American video platform Musical.ly and 86 million US dollars on media group News Republic, as part of an ambitious strategy of overseas expansion that has even seen the company linked with a takeover of Reddit.
Bytedance has put Tik Tok’s success down to its popularity in first and second-tier Chinese cities, with 85 percent of its users aged 24 and under. The company has pointed to its core user base as the post 2000s generation, an emerging slice of the population which, like the post-80s and post-90s generation before it, will dictate consumer trends going into the next decade.
While the bulk of Tik Tok’s success has been in China, the app is fast becoming a popular platform of choice for young mobile users across Asia. Compared to similar platforms combining music and short videos, Tik Tok is the market leader in Thailand, Japan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and Cambodia.
That success is all the more impressive considering the competition present in China and Asia – Tik Tok has come out on top of rivals Kuaishou and Weishi – both of which are backed by the financial clout of Tencent. In January Kuaishou launched a one billion US dollar fundraising round, valuing the company at 18 billion US dollars ahead of an expected IPO later this year.
While Bytedance CEO Zhang Yiming simply posted “celebrate small success” on his WeChat Moments on Monday in response to Tik Tok’s ascent, he is a man with a plan.
Talking at the 1st Digital China Summit last month, Zhang said that Bytedance’s “dominant position in the global market” was down to its development of AI technology, adding “the core strategy for its globalization” was exporting Bytedance’s technology overseas.