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Instagram surpasses TikTok in number of app downloads in 2023: report

Instagram dethroned TikTok as the app with the most downloads in 2023 as the China-owned video app faces scrutiny from US regulators, with some lawmakers warning it poses a security threat.

Instagram’s total number of app downloads grew 20% year-over-year in 2023, to 768 million, according to data from Sensor Tower.

The statistics mean that the Meta-made photo-sharing app is the most downloaded in the world, per the market intelligence firm’s findings, which were earlier reported on by the Financial Times.

Downloads of TikTok, meanwhile, increased by a mere 4%, to 733 million, in the same period.

“Instagram has outperformed TikTok in adoption over the past few years, driven by the popularity of its reels feature along with legacy social media features and functions,” Abraham Yousef, senior insights manager at Sensor Tower, told the outlet.

Instagram’s total number of app downloads grew 20% from 2022 to 2023, while TikTok’s only advanced by 4%, according to market intelligence firm Sensor Tower. Instagram was the most downloaded app in the world last year. Getty Images
Instagram’s total number of app downloads grew 20% from 2022 to 2023, while TikTok’s only advanced by 4%, according to market intelligence firm Sensor Tower. Instagram was the most downloaded app in the world last year. Getty Images

Chinese tech behemoth ByteDance launched TikTok in 2016. In 2018 — after its $800 million merger with Shanghai-based lip-sync social media site Musical.ly — it became the most downloaded in the US.

Within the first six months of 2018, TikTok was downloaded more than 104 million times in Apple’s App Store alone, according to Sensor Tower.

By the time COVID was plaguing the nation in 2020, TikTok’s popularity exploded.

That same year, Instagram debuted “reels” — a feature that allows users to share short clips — in a move that attempted to clone TikTok’s approach in hooking millions of Gen Z consumers, according to FT.

Instagram had 1.47 billion monthly active users in 2023 while TikTok had 1.12 billion. However, TikTok’s users engaged with the platform more than their counterparts on Instagram. Getty Images/iStockphoto
Instagram had 1.47 billion monthly active users in 2023 while TikTok had 1.12 billion. However, TikTok’s users engaged with the platform more than their counterparts on Instagram. Getty Images/iStockphoto

TikTok’s edge over Instagram waned incrementally in 2021 and 2022, before losing its spot as the most-downloaded app last year, when Instagram’s monthly active users reached 1.47 billion, according to Senor Tower.

Instagram welcomed 13 million new monthly active users — a measure of the efficiency of marketing strategies, customer experience and consumer retention — in the last three months of 2023 alone.

In the same period, TikTok saw 12 million users leave the platform, and ended 2023 with 1.12 billion monthly active users.

Despite having a smaller audience, TikTok users engage with the platform at a higher rate than those on Instagram, according to FT.

Users on TikTok spent an average of 95 minutes on the platform in the fourth quarter of 2023, compared with 62 minutes on Instagram, 30 minutes on X and 19 minutes on Snapchat — mostly because of TikTok’s unique ability to feed users with content that targets their preferences, FT reported.

TikTok’s algorithm poses a unique opportunity for content creators to be an overnight viral success. iStock
TikTok’s algorithm poses a unique opportunity for content creators to be an overnight viral success. iStock

TikTok’s algorithm means that anyone has the opportunity to go viral — and fast — thus attracting content creators looking to achieve overnight success with the app’s Creator Fund, which awards eligible creators as much as 40 cents for every 1,000 views.

This means that a creator part of the payment program whose video gets 1 million views is in for a $400,000 windfall.

Instagram, meanwhile, does not pay creators through a company fund, and instead provides creators with the opportunity to post brand partnerships and sponsored posts at a rate of their choosing, which is usually determined by their followers and engagement rate.

As recently as Monday, however, former President Donald Trump wanred that Chinese-owned TikTok is a national security threat, citing the need to protect the American people’s privacy and data rights.

Trump spoke out as the House prepares to take up legislation this week that would ban companies like Apple and Google from offering TikTok web hosting in the US or making it available on their app stores unless parent company ByteDance divests itself within 180 days.

President Joe Biden has said he would sign a bill to ban TikTok if it came to his desk amid continued concerns about the app’s use of data collected from US users.

Bipartisan legislation that would force Chinese government-linked ByteDance to sell off TikTok already cleared a House committee vote unanimously last week — with lawmakers defying an all-out pressure campaign by the app and disgruntled users to kill the bill.

Even more concern over TikTok’s potantial safety threat emerged recently after users reported being instructed by the app to input their iPhone password to view content. Getty Images
Even more concern over TikTok’s potantial safety threat emerged recently after users reported being instructed by the app to input their iPhone password to view content. Getty Images

The House Energy and Commerce Committee passed the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act by a 50-0 vote during a markup session.

More than 100 million Americans alone use TikTok, many of whom are younger than 30 years old, and reports of the Chinese government stealing data of the app’s users have raised concerns among lawmakers in Washington.

In response, TikTok has bashed the bill “an outright ban” and said it would “trample the First Amendment rights of 170 million Americans and deprive 5 million small businesses of a platform they rely on to grow and create jobs.”

However, concerned users have pointed to the app’s odd demands — such as its request for users to input their iPhone passwords to view content — as reason why TikTok may be allegedly spying on its US-based users.