With ongoing talks of a TikTok ban in the US and possibly other regions, the timing is particularly interesting. Today data.ai released its latest app performance report showing that TikTok surpassed Instagram as the most downloaded app in Q1 2023.
If you want to understand the scope of the impact that a TikTok ban could have, it is because TikTok is the leader in both downloads and consumer spending for the first three months of the year, while you will also find that TikTok edited App CapCut also increases, outperforming both Snapchat and Messenger in total downloads over the period.
Which isn’t really a surprise. TikTok has become the entertainment source of choice for many people, and amid a broader shift away from social media sharing — meaning people posting their own thoughts and updates — entertainment has become the primary purpose of social media apps, with users spending hours a day spend scrolling through an endless stream of short video clips.
This was not possible in the past due to network connectivity limitations and the associated costs. But now most people can watch video content on the go at relatively low rates, which has shifted the momentum even further to video being the primary medium users engage with.
And as mentioned before, people just aren’t posting on social media the way they used to.
This is reflected in Meta’s internal data, published by the Wall Street Journal back in January, which showed that while Meta usage increased in the fourth quarter of 2022, creation and engagement declined and fewer people on both Facebook and Facebook posted on Instagram than in the past.
This is the shift toward entertainment via social media — and in fact, TikTok bills itself as an “entertainment app,” not a social network.
That’s becoming a more accurate description — and while every other social network tries to catch up and improve its own engagement stats by offering stickier, more compulsive user experiences, TikTok’s algorithmic and content approaches stand out, with a focus on the best Content resides with everyone, rather than confining your input to your smaller, curated networks.
The construction of the app in this regard gives it a great advantage. Meta is gradually closing the gap, as is YouTube with its copycat functionalities. But TikTok remains at the forefront of the social entertainment race. Its algorithm is just too good, too adaptable, and far more compulsive than other platforms at this stage.
Of course, that could all be for naught if the app gets banned, and it feels like we’re approaching the next phase of taking action against TikTok and its Chinese ownership. But the stats here underscore the app’s popularity and the possibilities of apps that focus on entertainment through social connections.
It’s therefore a challenge to balance making it easier to interact with creators to get them to upload, while still keeping users coming back. But the charts here show that TikTok is a leader – which is why its owners are doing everything they can to stay connected with users around the world.
The potential losses from TikTok bans would be huge. With that in mind, I expect that somehow a workable compromise will be found and TikTok will stay operational for users in the long run. However, there may be short-term disruptions, the scope of which is set out in these listings.