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It's the first non-gaming mobile app to hit the mark
Popular social video app TikTok has surpassed the $10-billion mark in global user spending. The milestone was reached on both the Apple App Store and Google Play and has no precedents among non-game apps, according to a data.ai report.
This record is just another one among many for TikTok. Operated by China’s ByteDance, the app has continuously proved its phenomenal popularity with targets reached one by one. In late 2018, TikTok ranked as the top-downloaded app in the United States. Two years ago, it announced reaching 1 billion monthly active users – that’s 23% of all internet users globally. More recent stats show that number is at 1.7 billion now – and that means TikTok has surpassed X (Twitter), Telegram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Skype in active user numbers.
(WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook are still ahead, at about 2.7 billion, 2 billion, and 3 billion monthly active users, respectively.)
In Q1 of 2023, TiTok became the first app to reach $1 billion in consumer spending in a single quarter, as data.ai reported. And unlike most non-gaming apps, which monetize by subscription, TikTok gets its users to spend on one-time virtual coins purchases – to buy gifts for content streamers.
The only other mobile apps to have exceeded $10 billion in consumer spending were four games: Candy Crush Saga, Tencent’s Honor of Kings, Clash of Clans, and Monster Strike. And ByteDance did have the ambition to repeat the success of TikTok it in the games market – but recently abandoned that plan, laying off hundreds of employees at its Nuverse branch and saying it will focus on social media and e-commerce.
Which is clearly an area where ByteDance is doing phenomenally well. TikTok entered the year 2023 with $6.2 billion in consumer spending, and then made an additional $3.8 billion in this year alone, data.ai said. These figures do not include Android spending in China, where Google Play does not operate. In China, ByteDance runs the domestic version of TikTok, called Douyin, which is heavily censored.
Data.ai also shared another peculiar factor about TikTok’s growth. While the aforementioned $10-billion surpassers saw steady growth over the years before they hit that big milestone, data.ai showed that it took TikTok much longer to reach $1 billion since its international launch in 2017 than it took to skyrocket from $5 billion to $10 billion in overall consumer spending.
TikTok’s success comes in spite of a pushback from lawmakers around the world. India banned the app in 2020 along with a slew of other Chinese apps on the grounds of national security and the spread of inappropriate content. The move followed a military skirmish in disputed territory on the China-India border. TikTok is also not accessible in Iran, and several nations have banned or are reviewing the use of the app on official devices for fear the Chinese government can access user data.
The United States is among these nations. First, TikTok was targeted by the former U.S. President Donald Trump as a national security threat. After months of talks about spinning off the U.S. version of TikTok and divesting it to Microsoft or Oracle, ByteDance challenged Trump in court – and got its way. Later, President Biden revoked Trump’s ban but began an official investigation into the concerns. Talks of the ban now persist on allegations that the app spies on its users – and it’s restricted on federal and public sector employees’ phones.
ByteDance remains a private company, but it recently offered investors a way to make a return by announcing a $5 billion stock repurchase plan. According to the plan, valuing its shares at $160 apiece, ByteDance commanded a valuation of $268 billion as of early December.
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