Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the latest in mobile OS news, mobile applications and the overall app economy.
The app industry is as hot as ever, with a record 218 billion downloads and $143 billion in global consumer spend in 2020.
Consumers last year also spent 3.5 trillion minutes using apps on Android devices alone. And in the U.S., app usage surged ahead of the time spent watching live TV. Currently, the average American watches 3.7 hours of live TV per day, but now spends four hours per day on their mobile devices.
Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re also a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus. In 2020, investors poured $73 billion in capital into mobile companies — a figure that’s up 27% year-over-year.
This week, we’ve got a first look at one of TikTok’s early e-commerce tests, which involves a program for sellers involving product anchors on videos and the option for affiliate sales. We’re also digging into the new iOS and Android betas, the FTC complaint against math app Prodigy and more.
TikTok tests a new e-commerce experience in Indonesia
The Financial Times recently reported TikTok was preparing to launch a range of new e-commerce experiences in 2021, including the ability for creators to share links to products, support for affiliate sales, and even livestreamed shopping. Now, we’ve got a first look at some of the live tests around e-commerce that TikTok has in progress.
The company recently launched a “Seller University” website aimed at its Indonesian audience, where it details how brands can advertise their products on video. Here, TikTok explains brands have two ways to advertise, either by making their own videos or by working with affiliates.
“If you choose to sell through your personal page, you can then display products via livestreaming or short videos, with product anchors embedded in your content. When customers view your content, they can be redirected to the corresponding product detail page by clicking on the product anchor,” the site explains.
The Seller University also details other information, like how to sign up to be a TikTok seller and what sort of products are prohibited, along with other rules and guidelines.
TikTok Sellers have to provide their contact information, including location, phone, email, shop and warehouse location, and other required documentation to be approved. They can then set up a Seller profile, where they can manage other users associated with their account. Once live as a Seller on the app, they’ll have a “TikTok Shop” on the second tab on their profile, which users can view when they visit the page.
When their videos showing their products are viewed, there are “product anchors” embedded in the content. Clicking on these anchors will redirect the viewer to the product detail page where they can transact. In addition, brands can collaborate with TikTok influencers to promote their products through a new “TikTok Affiliate” program.
TikTok told TechCrunch the program is a test of its e-commerce solutions in Indonesia, and one of several product tests in the area of e-commerce.
Consumer advocacy groups file FTC complaint against edtech app Prodigy
A coalition of 20 consumer advocacy groups, led by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, have filed an FTC complaint against the popular edtech app Prodigy, which offers a math learning app for web and mobile. The app is designed much like modern-day freemium games, with math “battles” designed to improve math skills, grades and test scores.
The complaint alleges a variety of abuses, including how it aggressively pushes kids using the free version provided to schools to nag parents for the paid $59 annual subscription, which includes a richer gaming experience.
The groups also take issue with the app’s in-app rewards and badges — some of which are only available to paid users, including fancier loot boxes — saying these features cause division between those who pay and those who can’t. And it alleges that Prodigy’s claims about educational improvements don’t hold merit.
In response, Prodigy says it takes the concerns seriously, but over 95% of users play the game for free and the business model involving the paid membership is how free access is provided.
“Without this model, we would be required to put all of our educational content behind a paywall, which contradicts our mission of providing full access to fun and engaging math learning,” a company spokesperson said. “The alternative would be to generate revenue via advertising, which is not a model we believe best benefits or protects our users. We never show third-party ads on our platform, nor do we sell or lease any other user information to third parties,” they noted.
The FTC has stepped up its enforcement over how apps targeting children can behave, with a focus on data collection practices and COPPA violations, which has resulted in fines for apps like TikTok and YouTube. This complaint, however, is not about children’s privacy, but rather how they’re being marketed to via edtech.
Apple rolls out iOS 14.5, beta 2. The update includes a new Apple Music interface with the ability to share lyrics on social and use new swipe gestures; new Shortcuts actions for taking screenshots, setting screen orientation switching between cellular data modes, and more; expanded support for iPad privacy features (in relation to shutting off the microphone); and more than 200 new emoji.
The most notable new emoji include the heart on fire, exhaling face, face in clouds, gender options for people with beards and an updated syringe that removes the blood, making it more useful for conversations about the COVID vaccine.
Apple welcomed the teams from 13 app companies in its inaugural cohort for Apple’s Entrepreneur Camp for Black Founders and Developers. The program focuses on building technical skills and designing a great user experience through sessions, hands-on labs, one-on-ones with Apple experts and engineers, and more. VC firm Harlem Capital will also offer mentorship.
Participants include fitness app B3am, news app Black, music app Bar Exam, 3D photos app Film3D, MIDI Controller app FormKey, healthcare app Health Auto Export, gardening app Hologarden, remote learning solution Hubli (beta testing), game Justice Royale, sneaker enthusiast app Kickstroid, nail art app Nailstry, social app Peek: Movies & TV Shows and music app TuneBend.
Google launches the first developer preview of Android 12. The update includes new privacy controls; pre-set password complexity levels of high, medium and low; other improved user experience tools and app compatibility improvements; the ability to transcode media into higher-quality formats like the AV1 image format; transitions and animations for notifications, plus the ability to decorate notifications with custom content; enrollment-specific IDs for employee-owned devices; streamlined credential management for unmanaged devices; an improved screenshot editor; better support for multi-channel audio; Project Mainline improvements; and more.
Google’s Play Store adds support for Nearby Sharing. The feature allows users to share apps and updates with nearby Android devices.
Google suspended the Trump 2020 app from the Play Store for non-functionality. The app would either hang upon first launch or immediately reported a server error. Google says the app was in violation of its policies around non-functional apps, but the app can return if it’s fixed.
YouTube says it’s now beta testing a new e-commerce shopping experience in the app that allows creators to market products to fans, who can then buy directly on YouTube. The feature, which aims to compete with TikTok’s growing shopping ambitions, will expand later in 2021 beyond the initial group of creators.
Robinhood’s CEO Vlad Tenev testified before Congress this week over the GameStop frenzy. Tenev denied helping hedge funds and asked for the SEC to modify trading rules. AOC pointed out that Robinhood isn’t truly free, it’s just hiding the cost from retail investors by subsidizing free trades with payment for order flow. (A percentage of its revenue Tenev ridiculously claimed he couldn’t recall, saying only “it’s over 50%.”)
TikTok parent ByteDance is exploring a sale of its TikTok operations in India to Bangalore-headquartered Glance, a mobile content platform founded by InMobi founder Naveen Tewari. Glance operates a TikTok rival Roposo, which has seen massive growth since TikTok was banned in India over national security concerns. The two companies — ByteDance and Glance parent InMobi Pte — share an investor with SoftBank, which initiated the talks, per a Bloomberg report.
Instagram is fixing the iMessage bug. Some suspected the issue was related to Apple and Facebook’s ongoing public battles, but Instagram said the problem where Instagram links in iMessage wouldn’t show a preview was just a bug. The company noted a fix will arrive soon.
TikTok inks a multi-year deal with UFC which includes livestreams of pre- and post-fight content, and other behind-the-scenes footage. The content will stream on UFC TikTok accounts including @UFC, @UFCRussia, @UFCBrasil and @UFCEurope.
Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, now has 550 million users for its in-app Search feature alone. The app last reported in September it had 600 million daily users, indicating an even larger base of MAUs.
Right-wing social network Parler announced it’s back online for existing users and will re-open to new users next week. The company also has a new interim CEO, Mark Meckler, who previously co-founded the Tea Party Patriots.
Triller is mired in controversy over its MAUs. A Billboard report says the company misrepresented the number of monthly active users it had — 25 million instead of the 50 million it claimed. Triller CEO Mike Lu had said the discrepancies didn’t matter because there’s “no legal definition” for an MAU. After the report came out, Lu denied the company was inflating its numbers. We happen to recall that Triller immediately threatened to sue over a report that it had inflated its downloads last year.
YouTube star David Dobrik’s photo-sharing app Dispo, backed by a $4 million seed, launched into private beta to a ton of buzz. The app quickly maxed out TestFlight’s 10,000-person limit, instead of being the low-key beta debut the team had expected. Dispo’s gimmick is that users have to wait 24 hours to see the photos they snap.
Streaming & Entertainment
Clubhouse has topped 8 million global downloads, 2.6 million of which were in the U.S., according to a new report from App Annie. The report also highlighted the broader impact Clubhouse is having on social audio, as local audio apps are gaining new installs, too.
Global mobile users streamed 935 billion hours of video in 2020, up 40% YoY, says App Annie. The pandemic impacts were clear — users went from 146 billion hours in Q1 2019 to 240 billion in Q4 2020, a 65% rise in two years.
Cameo, the app that connects customers with celebs for paid personalized messages, is said to be raising $100 million, valuing its business at $1 billion, reports Bloomberg Quint. Not coincidentally, Facebook just began testing its Cameo clone, Super.
- YouTube to redesign its YouTube VR app homepage to improve navigation, accessibility and search functionality.
- YouTube says it will expand its video chapters feature to add chapters automatically and update the watch experience to be more intuitive, including on the tablet.
- YouTube TV, now with 3 million-plus users, will introduce a paid add-on that will support 4K streaming, DVR for off-line playback and unlimited simultaneous in-home streams.
- YouTube Kids will add a feature that allows parents to specify the channels and videos their kids are allowed to watch.
- YouTube will expand its Applause tipping feature to more creators in 2021.
- YouTube Music will improve playlist creation and make those playlists more discoverable.
- And as noted above, YouTube is testing an e-commerce feature that lets users check out on the app.
- YouTube Shorts, an in-app TikTok rival of sorts, will come to the U.S. in March, following its tests in India.
Microsoft xCloud, the game streaming service that lets users play Xbox games on Android tablets and phones, has begun testing a web version. In a review by The Verge, the experience is described as similar to the mobile version, with a simple launcher, recommendations, access to cloud games through Xbox Game Pass Ultimate and the ability to resume recently played games.
Apple demanded sensitive data from Valve to aid in its legal battle with Epic Games. The request included things like total yearly sales of apps and in-app products; annual ad revenues from Steam; annual revenues from Steam; annual earnings gross or net from Steam; and more. Apple also wanted the names of all Steam apps, price and IAP, and date range available. Valve, not surprisingly, did not agree to this. PCGamer has the full report.
Epic Games expands its legal fight with Apple to the EU. The Fortnite owner filed a formal antitrust complaint with the European Commission, alleging Apple’s anti-competitive restrictions that have “eliminated competition in app distribution and payments.” Epic Games is also fighting Apple in the U.S., U.K. and Australia.
We’re bringing our fight to end Apple’s App Store monopoly to Europe. Apple’s practices are harming consumers and app developers in Europe and around the world, and we’re joining the #EU’s ongoing investigation into Apple’s abuse of its dominant position https://t.co/LIb346QmEi
— Epic Games Newsroom (@EpicNewsroom) February 17, 2021
Stadia layoffs shocked team. Google Stadia, the game streaming service available via Chromecast Ultra, the Chrome browser, ChromeOS tablets and the Stadia mobile app for Android, recently shut down its in-house game development studio, Stadia Games and Entertainment. A report from Kotaku this week indicates how much of a surprise this was to team, as just days before the mass layoffs, leadership was praising staff for their “great progress.”
Health & Fitness
Apple tells developers that only apps submitted by recognized public health authorities will be able to publish “health pass” apps to the App Store. These apps are designed to show someone’s COVID-19 testing and vaccination status. Apple says it will accept apps from government, medical and other credentialed institutions, healthcare providers, laboratories and test kit manufacturers.
Apple promotes iOS health apps to Apple Card holders. In honor of American Heart Month, Apple emailed Apple Card users savings on iOS health apps including Strava, Ten Percent Happier, Sleep Cycle and Lifesum.
U.S. health & fitness apps saw over 405 million installs in 2020, up 22% year-over-year, reports Sensor Tower. The apps, which benefited from gym closures amid COVID, saw $838 million in consumer spend, up 42% YoY. The average age of users also continued climb, demonstrating better retention with older users.
A second report from the firm indicated U.S. pharmacy app installs were up 47% as the COVID-19 vaccine began to roll out.
Microsoft launched a unified app for iPad that combines Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote into one single app. The app is a free download with in-app subscriptions, starting at $6.99/month. A $69.99/year subscription is also available. Microsoft previously launched unified apps for the iPhone and Android.
Government & Policy
TikTok faces a new series of regulatory complaints in Europe, including unfair terms over its virtual currency, whose exchange rate can be modified by TikTok; unfair terms in relation to copyright, related to TikTok’s ability to redistribute users’ videos without paying them (e.g. for ads); child safety concerns over suggestive content and “hidden marketing” of its branded Hashtag Challenges; and other accusations of misleading data processing and privacy practices.
North Dakota’s Senate votes down the App Store bill that would have forced Apple to allow users to sideload apps on their mobile devices. The bill was funded by the advocacy group Coalition for App Fairness, which includes Epic Games, Spotify, Match Group, Tile and others with a beef against Apple over its commission structure. Similar bills are under consideration in Arizona and Georgia.
Breaking: The North Dakota senate just voted down the bill that would’ve banned Apple and Google from taking a cut of app sales from firms in the state.
Arizona and Georgia are considering similar bills, which are attracting intense lobbying on all sides.https://t.co/jKRBnH7NeI
— Jack Nicas (@jacknicas) February 16, 2021
The Post-IDFA Alliance, which consists of Liftoff, Fyber, Chartboost, InMobi, Vungle and Singular, launched a new “No IDFA? No Problem” resource that aims to help publishers and advertisers navigate the iOS 14 transition.
File sharing app SHAREit, one of the world’s most popular apps, is found to have several security flaws, researchers reported. The vulnerabilities could be abused to leak sensitive user data and “execute arbitrary code” with app permissions.
✨ Robinhood rival Public.com raised $220 million just months after its $65 million Series C, as previously reported by TechCrunch. Prior investors returned, including Greycroft, Accel, Tiger Global, Inspired Capital, and others, valuing the business at $1.2 billion.
✨ Robinhood rival Webull raised $150 million in a new round that values the business at over $1 billion. The brokerage was founded by Alibaba alum Wang Anquan and, like Public.com, has benefitted from the exodus of disgruntled Robinhood users, who left over the GameStop debacle.
✨ Math learning app Photomath raised $23 million in Series B funding in a round led by Menlo Ventures. The app, now with 220 million downloads, lets you point your phone at a math problem and it explains the solution.
✨ Live video shopping startup Talkshoplive raised $3 million from Spero Ventures for its live video shopping platform that lets users watch its videos on the web and mobile web — or anywhere else they’re embedded.
✨ Event networking app Grip raised a $13 million Series A, despite the pandemic. The app pivoted last year to support virtual, hybrid and live events, instead of just in-person events.
✨ Mobile gaming startup Artie raised $10 million for its gaming platform that lets users play mobile games without installing an app, from the browser or anywhere links can be shared online. Investors included Zynga founder Mark Pincus, Kevin Durant and Rich Kleiman’s Thirty Five Ventures, Scooter Braun’s Raised In Space, Shutterstock founder Jon Oringer, Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, Googler Manuel Bronstein and YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley.
✨ Low-code app development service OutSystems raised $150 million in a round led by Abdiel Capital and Tiger Global, valuing the business at $9.5 billion.
✨ Cross-border neobanking app Zolve raised $15 million in a seed round led by Accel and Lightspeed. The app was founded by the Raghunandan G, the founder of ride-hailing firm TaxiForSure, which exited to Ola. It’s aimed at people moving from India to the U.S. or vice versa.
✨ Dating app Jigsaw raised $3.7 million for its app that hides daters’ faces with puzzle pieces in an effort to push users to engage and get to know each other before the reveal. While “face reveals” are popular on social media, a dating app that does this lends itself to objectifying people by not showing the face, as users focus on the daters’ body instead.
TechCrunch this week covered DIY home renovation startup Outfit, which leverages consumers’ mobile devices to help them with their home projects. After submitting information, including dimensions and photos, Outfit’s app offers the customer a step-by-step guide for completing the project, including documenting their space, getting items and tools delivered, a custom to-do list and receiving support while the project is underway.
Hush, a recently launched Safari ad blocker for Mac, iPhone and iPad, does more than just block ads. The app also works to block other invasive trackers and those annoying cookie warnings that now pop up everywhere due to GDPR laws. (it actually doesn’t consent or deny the “accept cookies?” requests — it just blocks the scripts and elements on the website. It doesn’t interact with the site or click any buttons.
The updated version of Zillow’s 3D Home app introduced new technology that combines into one interface 3D Home tours, listing photos and AI-generated floor plans. To create the floor plans and home tour, the app uses computer vision and machine learning on panoramic photos the agent or photographer captured using the app and a 360-degree camera. The app also leverages AI to predict things like room dimensions and square footage. Both the home tour and floor plan can then be automatically uploaded to the lists and added to a website, MLS or shared on email/social media.
Due to the pandemic, Zillow 3D Home tours published on for-sale listings increased 255% during 2020 as customers used it as a safer way to tour properties, the company also noted.
Instagram’s TikTok clone Reels is now available in the Lite app in India
Instagram’s TikTok clone, Reels, has officially launched last August, but so far it’s only been available in the main Instagram app. From today on, however, you can also find Reels inside Instagram Lite in India.
As with all of Facebook’s Lite apps, this one is designed to be less data intensive and also use less resources on your phone, so it’s perfect for people who either have lower-end devices or small data plans, or both.
Reels is a feature that lets you record and edit 15-second multi-clip videos with audio, effects, and a bunch of creative tools. If that sounds familiar to every TikTok user out there, it’s because it should. Facebook and its various properties have never been shy about wholesale aping of successful features from other competing apps – Snapchat in particular has been copied a lot, and because of the reach of Facebook’s apps, its copies may end up being more successful than the originals. It still remains to be seen if that will be the case in the Reels vs. TikTok battle, but Instagram sure seems serious about Reels.
Instagram Lite, while gaining the Reels feature, still doesn’t have IGTV or Shop. And while you’ll be able to watch Reels in Instagram Lite, you still can’t create them there – you need the main app for that. But maybe the company is betting that more people would be willing to switch to that after seeing all these Reels, if that gets them to want to make their own.
The addition was apparently expedited for India, because of the traction Reels is seeing there, as well as the early adoption of the new Instagram Lite app, which has been available since September.
The beauty of TikTok’s secret, surprising, and eerily accurate recommendation algorithms
Why it matters:
It’s flipped the script on who gets famous online.
Deven Karpelman would never have joined TikTok if it hadn’t been for the pandemic. And she certainly never expected to be famous on it. But the app has a way of rewarding good content with views, dropping new creators in front of a broad spectrum of fans. That’s how Karpelman, a 57-year-old who works in special education and started making videos to stave off lockdown boredom, ended up with 327,000 followers, many of whom are a fraction of her age.
In one of her breakthrough videos from July, Karpelman—known as @tequilaanddonuts—re-creates the makeup looks she used to wear in the late ’70s. Her wavy white hair, which normally falls around her face in a granny-like halo, is pinned and clipped into something like a faux-hawk. She’s covered her face in white powder, painted her eyelids black, and drawn a thin line of dark lipstick. The video cuts, and when Karpelman comes back, she shows off her “fancy going-out face.” The black eyeshadow has extended all the way across her face and both eyes, as if someone had made an angry swipe with a paintbrush.
In the hours after she shared this makeup experiment, it was shown to hundreds of thousands of people on their “For You” pages, the lifeblood of TikTok. It wasn’t obvious to her why this particular post was suddenly so visible, except that TikTok’s recommendation algorithms had made it so.
Making it big
Since TikTok launched in China in 2016, it has become one of the most engaging and fastest-growing social media platforms in the world. It’s been downloaded more than 2.6 billion times globally and has 100 million users in the US. And the unique way it finds and serves up content is a big part of its appeal.
The “For You” page is what most TikTok creators think makes the app different from other social media platforms, because anyone can get famous there. Good content is rewarded faster, supercharged by the algorithms that show users an endless stream of videos tailored to their tastes. While other social media platforms favor viral content with mass appeal, TikTok’s algorithms have proved especially adept at plugging creators into niche communities that share interests, hobbies, or a particular identity.
A video’s chances of ending up on your “For You” page are determined by, among other things, the captions, sounds, and hashtags on it. And as with any other social media platform, what TikTok chooses to show you is based on how you use the app—which videos you’ve liked, what content you create. The difference is that TikTok is better at it.
Already-popular creators do have an easier time getting attention, but TikTok doesn’t take a creator’s following or viral history directly into account when figuring out what content to seed where. That’s why “For You” pages mix viral hits with new videos from unknown creators, some of which have just a few views.
Over time, TikTok’s algorithms get better at guessing what users are interested in, not only connecting them to videos in their own areas of interest but bringing them into new spaces that have some overlap. (One viral video laid out TikTok’s communities like a treasure map: to get to the wholesome world of Frog TikTok, you had to leave Straight TikTok, find your way to Stoner Witch or Cottagecore, pass through Trans and Non-Binary, and “go through the portal to reach the promised land.”)
Karpelman started doing makeup videos after teens on TikTok tried to correct her about an aesthetic that she lived at its peak. “[They were] trying to school me about being hardcore and, you know, being alternative. And I was like, ‘Oh, honey child, you did not invent sin,’” she told me when we spoke on Zoom in December.
Now her videos appear a lot in communities devoted to LGBTQ+ and mental-health issues and recently gained an audience of women around college age, she says. Followers say she has “grandma energy,” a distinction she has alternately leaned into and dodged.
Last year was an interesting one for TikTok: just as its cultural relevance exploded, it also faced challenges. India banned the app, and the Trump administration threatened to do the same unless TikTok’s Chinese parent company cut all ties. (The threat was not carried out.)
TikTok has had to release more information about how its algorithms work, partially in response to security concerns about its ownership, and competitors like Instagram, Snapchat, and Triller have sped up attempts to copy what it is that makes their rival’s recommendations so good.
At the same time, the platform has been forced to reckon with its increasing role in amplifying misinformation, and many Black creators have said that racism and harassment are disturbingly prevalent on it.
For Karpelman, TikTok has allowed her to connect with strangers during a difficult and lonely time, but the fame it bestowed on her has brought its own worries. Fans have reached out to ask her for help with serious mental-health issues and interpersonal conflicts. Sometimes they want more from her than she feels she can give.
Her experience working with students comes in handy: she sets boundaries and helps young fans learn to advocate for themselves. “Let’s do some Googling,” she says. “Let’s look at your [high school’s] admin. Oh, it looks like there is a district-wide psychologist. I will help you put together an email. You send it to me, I’ll proofread it and send it back to you, and then you send it to these people. Give it a try.”
But Karpelman has found another way to connect with her young audience: by talking about what they have in common. In one video, she demonstrates how she pretends to be on the phone in order to dodge a particularly aggressive salesperson in a mall. “There were a lot of kids that commented in there that said, ‘I had no idea that grownups had these social anxieties,’ and that kind of blew my mind,” she says. “Kids just have no idea that older people are human.”
Yale TikTok: A potential market for Gen-Z students
TikTok has become an increasingly popular social media outlet for many Yalies, with the top videos from Yale students averaging half a million views.
In today’s pandemic climate, social media has played a vital role in helping people feel connected, contributing to TikTok’s astronomical rise in popularity during the initial quarantine last year. Before we knew it, videos of whipped coffee and dances to “Supalonely” had consumed the teen media bubble, but this was only the beginning. The TikTok phenomenon took on a life of its own, branching into the affectionately dubbed “College TikTok,” where students shared videos of their high school stats and day in the life videos, acting as inspirations to high school seniors all across the world.
The success of NYU TikTok where students shared videos of dismal quarantine food options made national news in August 2020 and drew the eye of the public to this exponentially growing realm of the app. Yalies have made their own space on this social media platform, with “#yale” boasting a combined total of 124.2 million views.
“I’ve actually never heard of NYU tiktok (possibly because I’m Australian),” Tia Chitty ’24, who runs a TikTok with 94.9k followers at the time of writing, wrote in an email to the News. “I started making TikTok content on the very same day that I downloaded the app, so my content wasn’t based on what anyone else was making. I would love for Yale tiktok to grow and create its own little community — I think that could be really fun and a great way to connect!”
Browsing the tag is bound to yield a host of familiar faces, due to the capability of TikTok’s algorithm to launch a video into the viral stratosphere overnight, inspiring wannabe creators to make content.
The popularity of college videos then leads to several questions: What is inspiring these students to create? Are they leveraging the Yale name for clout, or do they truly hope to offer insight? The News spoke to three TikTok creators about their thoughts.
“I’m inspired by creators who make me feel genuinely happy,” Chitty said. “I often feel a little bit down after scrolling through social media, but there are a few refreshing, genuine and positive creators who make me smile,” she said.
Chitty, who runs a YouTube channel as well, also cited the record of memories she has captured as an inspiration to keep filming.
Jasmine Oang ’24, who runs an account with 4,084 followers at the time of writing, shares a similar sentiment with regard to content creation, citing her desire to help people and make interesting content, as well as being inspired by the content that she herself enjoys watching, such as day in the life videos.
Dania Baig ’23 has 1,798 followers on TikTok. According to Baig, part of Yale TikTok’s draw is that potential applicants are looking for ways to vicariously experience college, and can only do it through social media due to the lack of Bulldog Days, which is traditionally a three-day-long event where accepted students can get a taste of life at Yale.
“I think there are certain creators who definitely have the potential to be shouted out on national news because of the nature of their content — Kahlil Greene, most notably, but also Noelle Mercer for her series where she covers a prominent black woman artist every day this month,” Baig wrote to the News.
Both Chitty and Oang detailed that their main audience are people in their teens and early 20s, with Chitty also referencing her status as an international student contributing to the large numbers of Australian teens following her for a glimpse into life at an American college.
According to Oang, though her most popular videos are ones detailing tips for the SAT, she enjoys making day in the life videos most.
“I love making SAT tip videos because in high school, there were a lot of resources that cost money and really reinforced the elitism in academic success, but as a first-generation student with a single mom, they weren’t as accessible for me,” Oang said. “I spent a lot of time looking into opportunities and I really wish I had someone to point me in the right direction through all of it, so I try to do that through TikTok.”
However, Oang cited the ease and fun of day in the life videos as reasons why they are her favorite to create.
Chitty also enjoys making “day in the life” content or videos detailing specific events in her life the most.
Her most popular video to date, with 3.4 million views, was about her taking her first Yale economics midterm in Australia at 2 a.m.
“I enjoy sharing these experiences with people and also love capturing the moments so I can look back on them in the future,” Chitty said. “Most of my followers are Australian, and so they also enjoy my ‘skit’ videos where I act out conversations between an Australian and an American.”
Though the Yale name does give videos a certain boost, both Oang and Chitty believe that they would still be making TikToks whether they were at Yale or not.
Since its launch in September 2016, Tik Tok’s popularity has grown exponentially, and is reported to have 1 billion active users as of February 2021.
Mai Chen| firstname.lastname@example.org