What Is TikTok? – Everything You Need to Know in 2024

From a fairly inconspicuous app mainly used for lip-syncing during its days as Musical.ly, TikTok has grown exponentially in terms of popularity and user count. Now, some of the most viral videos and trends that you find on other platforms can be traced back to TikTok. That's just how popular the app is today.

In fact, the New York Times claims that TikTok "is rewriting the world." According to the publication,

TikTok will change the way your social media works — even if you're avoiding it.

The number of TikTok users reached 900.7 million in 2024. By 2025, the number is expected to go to 955.3 million. 

Statistic: Number of TikTok users worldwide from 2020 to 2025 (in millions) | Statista
Over the years, TikTok has become much more than just a platform for creating and sharing short videos. It has now also evolved into a space for entertainment, creativity, marketing, social activism, and more. 

The platform has even been used as a tool for bringing light to important social issues and giving voice to marginalized communities. Here's a detailed guide to understanding TikTok and how businesses can use it.

See the latest TikTok Stats here

But what is TikTok exactly? What is it used for and why is it so popular? Read on to find the answers to your pressing questions about TikTok.




What Is TikTok? – Everything You Need to Know in 2024:

What Is TikTok?

TikTok is a social media platform that allows users to create, edit, discover, and share videos. The video length on TikTok is anywhere from a few seconds to 10 minutes. 

@keith_lee125 We officially hit 20 weeks and the demands are higher than ever before #pregnancy #pregnancycravings ♬ original sound - Keith Lee

According to the platform,

"TikTok is the leading destination for short-form mobile video. Our mission is to inspire creativity and bring joy." 

The platform has changed a lot over time. It has disrupted the traditional social media landscape by creating a new format of content creation and consumption. 

Users can create and share videos on any topic, from lip-syncing to dancing, comedy sketches, educational videos, and more. 

In the Chinese market, TikTok works as a separate app called Douyin, which is one of the most popular apps in the country. TikTok maintains a separate user count from the Chinese version of the app.

History of TikTok 

In September 2016, ByteDance, a Chinese internet technology company with headquarters in Haidian, Beijing, launched a platform called A.me. Later, the platform was rebranded to Douyin the same year in December. 

The company developed the platform in just 200 days. Within just a year of launch, the platform has 100 million users, with over a billion videos viewed annually. 

After its initial success, ByteDance wanted to expand its market reach beyond China. Zhang Yiming, the founder of ByteDance, said,

"China is home to only one-fifth of Internet users globally. If we don't expand on a global scale, we are bound to lose to peers eyeing the four-fifths. So, going global is a must."

In 2017, ByteDance created a global version of Douyin and named it TikTok. The app was launched in international markets the same year. 

In November 2017, the company bought Musical.ly, a Shanghai-headquartered startup, for up to $1 billion. Mysical.ly was a short-form video app that allowed users to make lip-syncing videos. 

Originally released in 2014, Musical.ly was merged with TikTok in 2018. The existing data and accounts of both platforms were consolidated into one app. 

TikTok's Rise to Popularity

TikTok quickly gained fame in the international landscape, becoming the top free-to-download app on app stores across several countries, including Thailand, in 2018. 

In the same year, US celebrities, such as Tony Hawk and Jimmy Fallon, also started using the app. Some celebrities, such as Justin Bieber and Will Smith, joined later. 


TikTok saw this as an opportunity to make its platform a marketing channel. In 2019, TikTok allowed users to embed sales links in videos. 

By July 2020, TikTok had 800 million monthly active users in just four years of existence. The figure is excluding Chinese users of the app's local version. So, the real figure is much higher. 

TikTok's Evolution 

In October 2022, TikTok made a move that was synonymous with Instagram's Shopping and Facebook's Marketplace. It added a feature to let users shop directly from the app. 

The TikTok Shop feature had already been launched in the UK prior to its release in the US in 2023. In a blog post, TikTok stated,

"TikTok Shop empowers brands and creators to connect with highly engaged customers based on their interests, and it combines the power of community, creativity, and commerce to deliver a seamless shopping experience."

With the introduction of TikTok Shop, users could tag products, making it easier for their followers to buy things from live videos or in-feed videos. Brands could also create a storefront on their TikTok profile, showing products and offering direct purchasing options.

Later, TikTok also added a dedicated tab for TikTok Shop. Users can search for products here and browse different categories, such as beauty, fashion, home, etc. 

In 2022, TikTok introduced another feature that would make it at par with competitors like Instagram and Snapchat: Stories. TikTok Stories are vertical, short-form videos or pictures that disappear after 24 hours. 

Also, in 2022, TikTok confirmed that it will let users upload longer videos, up to 10 minutes long. The feature was rolled out slowly, with many users getting access to it much later. 

The most recent advancement in TikTok's features is TikTok Notes, an Instagram-like feature that lets users upload pictures. In April 2024, Notes was released for limited testing in Australia and Canada. 

While TikTok already lets users post picture and carousel posts, the platform has started sending notification to some users that their current and future image posts will appear in a new app, which is TikTok Notes. 

Here’s a quick overview of how the platform has evolved over time since the days of Musical.ly:

  • 2014 – Musical.ly was introduced mainly as a platform to share lip-syncing.
  • 2018 – ByteDance acquired Musical.ly in August and renamed it TikTok. It became more than just a platform for lip-syncing, with dance challenges becoming the latest trend.
  • 2018 – By October, it became the most downloaded app in the App Store in the photo and video category.
  • 2021 – TikTok extended the video length to 3 minutes.
  • 2022 – TikTok rolled out the ability to upload up to 10 minutes of videos.
  • 2022 – TikTok surpassed 1 billion monthly active users, making it one of the biggest social media platforms.
  • 2023 – TikTok reported 150 million monthly active users in Europe.
  • 2024 - TikTok Experiments with Snapchat-Inspired Streaks Feature to increase engagement.

Data Privacy Concerns Around TikTok

As TikTok's popularity grew, so did concerns about user data and privacy. In 2019, India banned TikTok in response to a court order which ruled that the app was spreading pornography, so it should be removed from the app stores. 

Later, an appeal was filed, resulting in the decision being overturned. 

The next year, India banned TikTok again, stating that there were reports of the app

"stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users' data." 

India is not the only country that has taken action against TikTok due to data privacy concerns. In 2019, the US government also initiated a national security review of TikTok in response to a suggestion by Republican and Democrat lawmakers. 

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that that app was

"feeding data directly to the Chinese Communist Party."

Besides the US, the Australian intelligence agencies and the UK's Information Commissioners' Office are also probing the app's data handling practices. According to TikTok's privacy policy, the app collects a lot of data, including keystroke rhythms of people's typing, phone model, phone operating system, location data, and videos watched and commented on. 

The app also reads the clipboards of people's devices, so it can see what is being copied and pasted. However, it didn't come off as out-of-the-ordinary because many apps like LinkedIn and Reddit also do the same thing, for good reasons. 

Interestingly, unlike other social media platforms, such as Meta, TikTok is willing to be fully transparent about its data-sharing practices. The platform's chief executive even said that the company would let experts examine its algorithm to prove that it is not beholden to the Chinese government. 

However, in 2024, the US Congress approved a bill to ban TikTok in the country. The bill gives two options to ByteDance: see the app getting banned or sell the company to an approved buyer in the US. 

Why Is TikTok So Popular?

So, what's the secret behind the platform's massive success? Why is it catching on so fast and reaching billions of users worldwide? 

According to The New York Times, TikTok’s algorithm is one of the most advanced among social media platforms. It does not only look at user actions like clicks or follows. It also monitors user behavior. 

Similarly, The Wall Street Journal also noted that the platform understands its users emotions and preferences. The platform then uses these insights to show similar content that keeps users hooked for hours.  

Let's explore some of the key reasons why TikTok is so popular.

Short-Form Content 

One of TikTok's unique selling points is that its content is short and snappy, usually limited to 15 or 60 seconds. 

In a world where people have short attention spans and are constantly bombarded with information, TikTok's content is perfect for quick consumption.

For example, this 15-second video that started the #GirlDinner trend has 3.5 million likes and many more views. 

@karmapilled i CANT FIND THE GIRL DINNER PERSONS ACC BUT SHE IS MY HERO (alt: @karma (´◠ω◠`) ♬ original sound - Karma Carr

Even the most watched video on TikTok (2.3 billion views) is just a few seconds long. It's a Zach King video, with him down an illusion of riding a broomstick, Harry Potter style. 

@zachking They rejected my application to Hogwarts but I still found a way to be a wizard. 🧹#illusion #magic #harrypotter ♬ Zach Kings Magic Broomstick - Zach King

Celebrity Endorsements

TikTok is used and loved by many celebrities, from singers to actors to sports stars. Their presence on the platform helps attract more users and gives a sense of credibility and popularity to the app. 

For example, Lizzo has a TikTok account with nearly 26 million followers. Her videos get hundreds of thousands of views and bring her closer to her fans. 

Also, stars like Jason Derulo and Sabrina Carpenter have used TikTok to promote their music and collaborate with others.


Viral Trends and Challenges 

One of the main things that makes TikTok so relatable and creates a sense of community on the platform is its viral trends and challenges. 

For example, the "Act like you're in a Wes Anderson film" challenge was inspired by the director's signature style and attracted thousands of users to participate and put their own spin on it. 

Similarly, when Spiderman: Far From Home came out, its mention of a canon event, which is a life-changing event that alters the course of a character's life, sparked the "Canon Event" trend on TikTok. 

Users created videos showing their own canon events, from receiving a college acceptance letter to adopting a pet. 

These challenges not only provide entertainment for users but also make them feel like they are part of a larger community. 

Easy Content Creation 

A lot of users feel that the content on most platforms has to follow a convention. On LinkedIn, it has to be professional and career-oriented, on Instagram it has to be aesthetically pleasing, and on YouTube it has to be well-edited and informative. 

However, on TikTok, the barrier to entry for content creation is low. 

A simple 12-second video of a kitten can get over 300 million views. 

@britishpromise.cats Repost 😇 #catsoftiktok #viral #funny #cute #cutness #foryoupage ♬ origineel geluid - British Promise Cats

TikTok is all about creativity and authenticity, so users don't have to worry about fitting into a specific mold or following certain guidelines. Such flexibility makes it easy for anyone to create content and express themselves creatively without feeling pressured to conform. 

Key Features of TikTok 

Now, another pressing question you may have is–what can you do with TikTok? 

What features does the platform boast that makes it such a popular choice among social media users? Let's take a look at some of the key features and capabilities of TikTok.

Key features of TikTok 

Video Recording and Uploading

The most basic and obvious feature is the ability to record videos right on the app. 

You can also upload existing videos from your camera roll. Having the flexibility to either record or upload your video gives users more creative freedom.

Video Editing

TikTok comes with robust editing tools that allow users to get as creative as they want with their videos. 

TikTok editing 

TikTok editing

This includes the basics such as cropping and flipping videos as well as rotating the videos or changing their playback speed.

Filters and Effects

One of the best parts about the platform is the abundance of filters and effects that you can play with. Beyond beauty filters that allow for airbrushed perfection, it also offers fun stickers and animations that can make your video pop. 

This includes AR filters that let you change your facial features or add different elements to your video. You can even find a green screen effect that lets you add any background you want to your videos.

TikTok Sounds

Another popular aspect of the app is the vast collection of sounds. It offers plenty of popular and classic songs that you can add as background music to your videos. 

You can also add sound effects that give more substance to your content.


One cool feature about TikTok is that it lets you record voice overs for your videos. That way, you can add a narration to your pre-recorded video and get your message across more effectively. 

Live Video Streaming

TikTok also allows users to stream live videos where creators and their followers can interact in real-time. Users can even send Gifts to creators while they stream live videos. 

Creators can also go live with other creators on the platform. 


This feature lets users create a Duet video with another user's content. The two videos will play at the same time, which means users can actually sing together or perform dances and other stunts together.

@paigezilba My most viral video on TikTok! My favorite duet! 🥰 @Penelope Dolce ♬ original sound - Paige Zilba


TikTok Shop is a new feature that allows users to shop directly from the app. For select markets, there's a separate tab on the app where users can browse and purchase products from creators or brands. 

Family Safety Mode

The Family Safety Mode was introduced in 2020, facilitating parents in controlling their children's time on TikTok. Parents can manage their kids' screen time, set a restricted mode, and even put a limit on the number of direct messages. 

Later, the app also introduced "Family Pairing," a feature that provides educational resources to parents to help them understand what their children are being exposed to on the platform. 


With this feature, users can Stitch their video with another user's video. Unlike with Duet, a Stitched video will play after the original video that they Stitched it with. 

@lostmymarblesagain #stitch with @handsome guy ♬ original sound - secret brittany

For example, if someone posts a cooking tutorial, you can Stitch your own video creating the same recipe or adding your own twist to it. 

Video Reply

Another useful feature is the ability to create a video responding to a specific comment. With this feature, the comment will be highlighted as an overlay in your video. 

TikTokers use this feature to answer questions or address feedback from their followers. 


TikTok launched a feature called Tips that allowed users to tip creators directly. The amount for tips starts at $1. 

To receive tips, the creator must have a personal account, adhere to Community Guidelines, be 18 years of age or above, have at least 100,000 followers, and be a part of the Creator Next. 

The creator should have a Stripe account, too, since the tips are transferable directly to their bank. 

Creator Fund 

Creator Fund is a feature launched by TikTok to

"show our appreciation to our brilliant creator community by rewarding them for their incredible TikTok videos and creativity." 

Creators who are a part of the Creator Fund receive a monthly payout for their content. 

Creator Academy

The Creator Academy is an educational resource for creators to improve their content and learn about the latest trends on TikTok. It includes tutorials, tips, and best practices from the platform. 


TikTok introduced Avatars, allowing users to create virtual characters that resemble themselves. They can use these avatars in videos. 

Creative Assistant 

The platform has introduced an AI virtual assistant that helps creators in making videos. You can use it to brainstorm ideas and get inspiration. 

Plus, the assistant also lets you uncover new trends and create content with best practices in mind. 

What is TikTok Used For?

From B2B companies to small businesses–many brands are already making use of TikTok to stand out. It offers a new and creative way to engage your audience on a platform that they love to use. 

Some of the best ways for brands to use TikTok are as follows. 

How brands can use TikTok 

Creating Engaging Content 

Entertainment and information are at the core of TikTok content. Brands can use the platform to post entertaining content that their audience finds relatable. 

Duolingo does a great job of this. The company engages its young audience by posting TikTok trends, challenges, sounds, and pop-culture trends. 


Similarly, brands can also post informative and educational content. 

Launching Branded Hashtags

Branded hashtags can do wonders for brands on TikTok. They allow you to track the performance of your campaign, make your content more discoverable, and connect with your audience. 

So, brands don't necessarily have to tap into existing challenges and trends. They can make their own, too. 

For example, Vogue started the #MakeItVogue challenge, in which the company collaborated with TikTok to create a campaign around Met's About Time exhibit. 


The company encouraged people to post videos of 19th-century-inspired fashion with everyday objects. Vogue's campaign was extremely successful, bringing in over 3 billion views. 

Running Ads

TikTok Ads can help brands reach their target audiences and achieve their marketing goals. The platform offers various ad formats, including in-feed ads, branded hashtags, branded effects, and top-view ads. 

Brands can also use TikTok's targeting options to reach specific demographics and interests. 

Working With Influencers

Influencer marketing has emerged as one of the most effective ways to reach and engage with younger audiences on TikTok. Brands can collaborate with relevant influencers to promote their products or services through sponsored videos and fun challenges. 

For example, Glossier works with beauty influencers to create makeup tutorials and reviews on TikTok, gaining millions of views and engagement. 


GymShark also works with influencers in the fitness industry. Their videos show their products in action, which serves as a powerful tool for promoting their brand and also provides social proof for their audience. 

@hopesgroo GYMSHARK BIGGEST SALE STARTS TODAY JUNE 29th, 11am EST, 10am CT. use my code shophope for 70% off 🦈💗 #gymshark #gymsharkwomen #fyp ♬ original sound - Hope sgro

Engaging With Audiences 

What better way to use a social media platform than to "talk" to your audience? Brands can engage with their audiences on TikTok through comments and video responses. 

For example, Fenty Beauty responds to comments to show appreciation and further promote their brand. 

@fentybeauty Soft’Lit and too glowy to quit 💅🏽✨ That #SoftLitGLOW 🆙 goes harddd 😮‍💨 and @Paris Castellanos❤️‍🔥 is serving golden hour glow purrrfection in shade 315 of our #SoftLit Luminous Foundation. This viral formula hydrates, brightens + improves skin tone instantly and over time 🤩 Shop the 5️⃣0️⃣ #SoftLitFoundation shades at @sephora + the #FentyBeauty ♬ MILLION DOLLAR BABY (VHS) - Tommy Richman

What's In the Future for TikTok?

For now, TikTok seems to be doing everything right. The platform is giving its competitors a run for their money, and it continues to expand its user base. 

But what can we expect in the future for TikTok? Here are some possibilities:

  • More advertising capabilities: As more brands join TikTok, the platform may introduce new advertising options and tools. 
  • New features: TikTok Notes is already here. The platform will likely continue to introduce new features. 
  • Data privacy concerns: The app has faced scrutiny for its data collection and privacy policies. It will continue to do so.

However, US users don't have to worry about the app going away anytime soon since the bill can take years to take effect

Other than that, TikTok is all set to keep entertaining more and more followers.

What is TikTok? - Video

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the main purpose of TikTok?

The main purpose of TikTok is to create, share, and discover short-form video content.

What is TikTok and how does it work?

TikTok is a video sharing app that works like a social media platform, which allows users to create and share content as well as discover content from other users.

Does TikTok cost money?

TikTok is free to download and use.

How do people make money on TikTok?

Creators on TikTok can make money by signing up for the TikTok Creator Fund, earning Gifts from followers and exchanging them for cash, collecting donations from fans, and partnering with brands.

What kind of content is on TikTok?

TikTok mainly consists of short-form video content with a focus on entertainment, dance challenges, pranks, and informational content.

About the Author and Expert Reviewer
The Influencer Marketing Hub Team brings together a diverse group of experts with a passion for influencer marketing, digital trends, and social media strategies. Each piece of content crafted by this team is researched and written to provide valuable insights, tips, and updates for our readers. Our authors are dedicated to delivering high-quality, informative, and engaging articles that help businesses and influencers thrive in this rapidly changing digital world.
Djanan Kasumovic
Expert Reviewer
Djanan Kasumovic, Head of Growth at Influencer Marketing Hub and a Master of Science in International Marketing and Management from the Copenhagen Business School, is a distinguished reviewer known for his strategic insights into digital strategy transformation. With a keen eye for leveraging digital marketing trends, Djanan evaluates IMH content with an analytical and purpose-driven approach, ensuring every piece is optimized for maximum impact.