This month marks the one-year anniversary of the Trump administration’s initial threat to ban ByteDance Ltd.-owned TikTok, entangling the social-media platform into the unpredictable web of geopolitics. Despite the existential distraction, the short-video app has thrived over the past year. And now, with its popularity surging, TikTok may be poised to achieve the goal that is the dream of every major U.S. technology company: a super-app for the Western world.
TikTok’s growth and the level of its user engagement have been remarkable. According to Sensor Tower, the app was the most downloaded and highest-grossing non-game during the first half of this year, surpassing 3 billion total installs. Analysts expect TikTok to keep growing faster than its competitors, and industry tracker eMarketer projects the app’s user base in the U.S. will rise 18% this year, compared with a 1% increase for Facebook Inc. and a 4% gain for Facebook’s Instagram. Most impressive of all, TikTok users are growing more addicted to the short-video service. Research firm App Annie says the app has surpassed Google’s YouTube for average time spent per user in the U.S. and the U.K.