While looking around for articles to write, I chanced upon an idea that came up to me while brainstorming: try something new in an area wholly unfamiliar to me, then write about it. Since we currently have no App reviews, why not try something that the readers would be interested in?
I decided to take a quick browse in the “popular” section of the Google Play store and was surprised to see another short video app gaining traction outside of their geographical market, Tiktok.
Time to do some research.
What is Tiktok?
If you’ve been around on the internet, you should be no stranger to the likes of short video apps like Vine, Snapchat and at times, Instagram. Tiktok is another app that is along the lines of those, but tries to improve on that concept.
Tiktok currently has an international user base of 500 million which makes it one of the largest “community” apps you can download on Android or iOS. The app is available for download for free through the Google App Store on Android & the Apple App store on iOS.
Rather than writing a plain review from an outsider’s perspective, I decided to put my spin on it: a deep(er) dive into the history of these short videos and how they came to be; since this is a relatively new thing that came up, I do remember the time when it was getting popular.
Here is my take on this particular app, combined with a brief history of the phenomenon and why I think Tiktok seems to be a natural evolution of that concept.
The brief history
As far back as I remember, the early 2010s was a time when companies started to really use social media as a form of advertising. It was also during that time that these forms of short “challenges” started to appear online.
I remembered the first thing that caught on was “planking” whereby people would take photos or videos of themselves lying straight in a position on objects and things for no apparent reason. Initially I thought it was stupid because there is no point to it; yet as of today, I’ve changed my mind. It’s really stupid.
In an effort to outdo each other on the internet (as people on the internet do), the attempts at “planking” became more and more dangerous; I even remembered looking at news of people dying over attempts at doing this act being reported in the media during that time.
In more recent years, we’ve seen more challenges popping up that is equally mundane, but those that caught on were things such as the “freeze frame” video where a group of people pauses at a particular time while one-take video is shot of them. Another was the ice bucket challenge where a bucket of ice water is poured over someone.
While the initial goal was to raise funds for charity (albeit a noble cause), it still doesn’t seem to me like the right way to put actions into the cause.
As a big advocate of privacy on the internet myself, I always tend to ask myself this question before installing any kind of apps for free: What is the company doing to make money from their product? Afterall, software that is offered for free is inherently unsustainable and your user data and metrics is more likely to be sold in the grey market as such.
Luckily, they do indeed have plans to monetize the platform in some way such as advertising and sponsorships from companies for challenges which I will talk about it in greater details later.
Currently while there is no form of monetization on the international version of the App, there is some partial implementation of a “coin” system in place which I assume is a reward/micro-transaction system to use the more advanced features of the app.
Creating an Account
Creating an account is easy and there is a myriad of ways you can do this; for the privacy-conscious like me, it’s good to see methods other than mobile verification where you could be sending your mobile number to the database for tracking. Users can simply connect to things like Facebook or Google Account in order to sign up to the app without exposing your mobile number.
You can easily delete your account too; simply by going into your profile and selecting the appropriate option in the menu.
I find general usage to be quite smooth and there isn’t much lag coming from the app when scrolling down the video sections even on a low-to-mid end Redmi Note 3 I’m currently using. I’ve only found some stuttering when swiping left to view a profile but it doesn’t seem to happen all the time so YMMV.
Since this is a video sharing platform, expect a moderate amount of data usage on a mobile connection. Taking off the initial ~80Mb download of the program from the data usage, I averaged about 50Mbs of data using the app for about 30 minutes which isn’t too bad.
Weekly Challenges & hashtags
Challenges are the meat and bone of the app and provides what I feel is lacking from other similar apps; Direction. Here, there would be a section on the app to browse community-driven challenges that can be tracked by a main hashtag to be shared with others.
In addition to these, you can also find weekly challenges being picked by Tiktok themselves; namely, a certain hashtag will be provided for popular events around the world as a challenge such as using #WinterStorm for the premier of the final season of Game of Thrones. Special filters are added for these tags for users looking for that special flare when creating videos.
While I’m unsure if other apps have similar functions (I’m not kidding when I said that I don’t use any of these), the page in the app does an ok job in terms of showing relevant or popular hashes complete with infinite scrolling for that particular page.
Users can also search for hashes on the top of page if they wish and there aren’t any obviously missing features that I want it to be included here.
The best thing I find about this is that some challenges provide reason for you to spend your time making a short video. Some challenges are actually sponsored by companies in the form of a contest whereby you could get prizes for being the most ‘liked’ short video; a way of advertising for the participating company and also to reward the layman for their effort in creating content.
A reason, however small, is going to be wayyy better than only the fame or viewership that you do get from other apps.
One particularly unique thing to include in an app are the safety features you can enable within the app itself. Much like the “child safety” features you can enable on a Samsung phone, these features are there to limit inappropriate content and usage which is definitely a value-added thing to see on a social media app.
TikTok provides quite an extensive suite of video editing features for a mobile editor with tons of options including some stickers for AR effects, filters and general effects that can change the look of your videos; As such, it generally provides almost all the options you should expect to easily splice your videos in whatever way you choose.
Basic timeline manipulation tools are also available but do not expect to comprehensively edit the video as if it were an app in the Adobe suite. Still, I didn’t find any editing features to be lacking for my tastes.
As for the audio, TikTok has partnered with major record labels to provide the music which you can add to the app with no licensing issues; Want to use a particular song for a meme? It’s probably already there for you to use.
Did my opinions of this short video phenomenon change after using this App for about 5 days? Not really. I still think that people put way more effort into something like this for arbitrary/ next to no gains; Kind of like doing a “no-makeup” makeup for girls.
Now I’ve tried to not talk about being a “famous” person on apps like these, an “influencer” if you will; as most people do not reach that stage to be able to make a living off promoting things that they think are good.
Although, the things that I want to comment on that subject would be another large topic in itself that is best suited for another time.
Instead, for the layman who is a creative at heart, this app at least gives a form of motivation and some direction for people to draw inspiration from which I think couldn’t be a bad thing; even if it is just minor entertainment for people who are bored with a phone on hand.