The massively popular short-form video application TikTok is inching closer to behemoth YouTube in becoming the most watched video sharing platform on the internet.
BBC reports that TikTok has surpassed YouTube’s average watch time per user in the United States and the United Kingdom. Although YouTube still boasts more users and total videos watched than the Chinese app, the rising platform has surpassed YouTube in one crucial metric: U.S. users on the app spend more time watching more videos than U.S. YouTube users do on their site. In short, they get drawn in faster and stay for longer.
App analytics firm App Annie made these findings by studying data collected from Android phones. Since access to YouTube on Androids and iOS devices are nearly identical, the data likely represents Apple users’ relationship to the popular apps as well.
App Annie found that TikTok was the most downloaded app in 2021 (although YouTube comes pre-downloaded in Android phones) and also found that the TikTok viewing time per user had surpassed YouTube in April.
TikTok’s format proves more addicting for users than YouTube’s
YouTube has been established for 15 years, and since then has evolved in both content and format during its genesis as one of the most trafficked websites on the internet. But TikTok, which has only been accessible outside of China since 2017, has quickly rocketed to the top of popularity. It’s time restriction (video creators are limited to just a minute and a half), combined with the app’s ability for users to easily interact with sounds and music already uploaded to the platform, has fostered a highly creative and addicting experience for its young adult/adolescent demographic.
YouTube, owned by parent company Google, has sensed the looming threat of TikTok for some time now. The site introduced YouTube Shorts, a feature within the site identical to the TikTok user experience of minute long, swipe-able videos, in an attempt to cover the ground lost to the trending Chinese app.
But creating a quick copy of popular features is not enough to recapture users’ attention these days. Once creators and their fan bases have settled into a site’s ecosystem, they tend to be wary of abandoning the archive of content or personalized feed they’ve built. The only way to draw back audiences is to invent an original, novel feature of your own.
TikTok is unique in the app landscape for being an international crossover success from China. The app’s parent company, ByteDance, is based in Beijing and is owned in part by the Chinese government. The app was the subject of slight controversy last year due to its relationship to the Chinese government, with fears of illegal surveillance and data harvesting causing the platform to be banned in India.