What Is TikTok and How Does It Work?


If you’ve been on social media lately, you’ve likely encountered short videos of people lip-syncing, dancing, doing stunts, or performing short skits. These bite-sized videos come from TikTok, an app that’s quickly rising in popularity. But what is TikTok?

Since these videos have been spreading like wildfire across the web, you’re probably wondering what TikTok is, how to make your own videos, and how to get most out of the app. So, in this article, you’ll find out what TikTok is, how it works, and how to use it.

What Is TikTok?

You might remember those six-second Vine videos that propelled dozens of Viners to internet stardom. These Vines started the short video trend (and also decreased the world’s attention span).

After Vine’s release in 2012, Musical.ly came out in 2014. Like Vine, Musical.ly centered around short videos, particularly the kind that involved lip-syncing to music. By 2017, Musical.ly had hundreds of millions of users creating quick 15-second to one-minute long music videos.

So what does this have to do with TikTok? A lot, actually.

TikTok originally started out as an app called Douyin, which is essentially the Chinese version of TikTok. This Chinese variation still exists today, as it’s there to comply with special Chinese censorship laws. In other words, the world has access to TikTok, while China can only use Douyin.

ByteDance developed Douyin in 2016, and launched TikTok for the rest of the world in 2017. The app was an immediate hit, gaining millions of users in a fairly short period of time.

Here’s where Musical.ly comes into play. TikTok grew even more when ByteDance decided to merge with Musical.ly in August of 2018. Musical.ly users got to keep their accounts for an overall smooth transition into TikTok. TikTok also combined Musical.ly’s logo with their own, and even adopted the same “musers” nickname that Musical.ly gave to its audience. Since then, TikTok has increased in popularity and is now considered one of the top social media apps

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How Does TikTok Work?

Now that you know a bit about TikTok’s background, it’s time to learn more about the app itself. With TikTok, you can post wacky 15-second videos for the entire community of musers to see. You also have the option of linking these videos together into your story, which can last up to 60 seconds.

Either way, you have a very short timeframe for your videos, but it’s still not as limiting as Vine’s six-second maximum. Unlike Vine, you can upload videos directly from your phone, instead of having to record them directly in the app.

How to Use TikTok

You don’t have to register for an account on TikTok in order to use it. However, registering for an account allows you to follow other users and actually make videos. When you first open the app, you’ll probably feel overwhelmed at the sight of the neverending stream of videos that appear on your home page.

TikTok shows you recommended videos, as well as videos from the musers that you follow. Scroll through the suggested videos, and click the username on the ones you like. If you enjoy the rest of their content, give them a follow and stay up to date on all of their new posts.

Try not to watch too many TikToks. When you spend more than 90 minutes on the app, you’ll receive a notification to take a break. This app has been blasted for its addictive qualities, highlighting some of the negative effects of social media

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In terms of making videos, the app works a bit like Snapchat. You record videos by holding down a big red button, and (unlike Snapchat) you can edit them afterwards. The editing options obviously don’t compare to Adobe Premiere Pro, but you can still trim your videos and adjust the speed.

While some effects let you draw on your screen, others allow you to try on filters and even use augmented reality to change the environment around you. If you know how to use filters on Snapchat

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, you should get the hang of TikTok quickly. You can also create a short sequence of pictures from your phone, and use that as a video instead.

The main attraction of TikTok is the use of music. Every muser incorporates a song into their video using TikTok’s huge library of song clips that features almost every genre. If you’re not a fan of music, you can also use clips of dialog from funny videos.

What Kinds of Videos Can You Post on TikTok?

Despite the fact that TikTok only allows a short recording time for your videos, that doesn’t have to limit you in the creativity department. In fact, the time constraint usually makes for more creative and entertaining videos.

You can post any type of video on TikTok, but the most popular ones involve music. You don’t even have to know how to sing or play an instrument; just staying on top of the trends and using the latest songs can help your videos go viral.

As for the type of content you should post, the possibilities are nearly endless. Just think of TikToks as a shortened version of YouTube videos. That means you can post anything from tutorials to entertaining tech videos.

If you hit the magnifying glass on TikTok’s bottom menu bar, you’ll see some of the most recent and popular videos. You’ll notice that TikTok separates some videos into different playlists. Some of these playlists pertain to gaming, art, comedy, dance, fitness, cars, beauty, memes, and more.

TikTok also cycles through various challenges that a large number of musers attempt. These challenges aren’t created by TikTok itself; they start with one muser and spread from there.

For example, the stair shuffle dance challenge involves performing a shuffle dance up a flight of stairs. Many users took to TikTok to do this challenge in several creative variations. TikTok’s musers always seem to come up with different trends, memes, and challenges on a weekly basis. When one trend ends, another begins.

Should You Download TikTok?

Now that you know what TikTok is, you should know whether it’s worth downloading.

TikTok may seem to be the exclusive domain of teenagers, but it’s entertaining for all ages. You just need to find the right musers to follow, and once you do, you’ll receive a daily stream of amusing content. Since TikTok’s inception, millions of videos have been posted, so you’re bound to find at least one type of video you enjoy watching.

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Explore more about: Online Video, TikTok, Vine.

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