TikTok downloaded more than Facebook, Messenger, and Instagram in 2019

Lianna Brinded
Head of Yahoo Finance UK
TikTok got over 700 million downloads globally last year, according to data from Sensor Tower. Photo: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP via Getty Images

TikTok, the China-born social media video app, was the second most downloaded app in 2019, beating Facebook, and Facebook-owned Messenger and Instagram.

According to data firm Sensor Tower, TikTok got over 700 million downloads globally last year, while Facebook received just under 700 million downloads. It was only beaten by Facebook-owned WhatsApp, which received over 850 million downloads due to its unbridled popularity in India.

The fourth quarter of the year provided the biggest uptick for TikTok with Q4 marking an all-time high with nearly 220 million installs. This marks a 24% increase compared to the previous quarter and 6% growth year-on-year.

Graphic: Sensor Tower

TikTok’s growth is comparable to that of WhatsApp, which topped the charts. Whatsapp also experienced huge growth in the fourth quarter, up 39% after initially decreasing in downloads in the previous four quarters.

TikTok’s popularity is on a seemingly inexorable rise. After entering the app download charts in 2018 at number 4, it is now in second place and is on WhatsApp’s tail.

Worldwide app downloads. Charts: Sensor Tower

Chinese tech firm Bytedance, whose last valuation of $78bn (£61bn) makes it the world's most valuable start-up, is behind the app that is dominating the lives of millennials and generation Z. It only launched in September 2016 but, outside of China, it has already amassed over a billion and a half installs to date.

For those not initiated into the phenomenon, TikTok videos use either user generated music or commentary, sound from shows, movies, or games, or actual songs or mash-ups by artists, which are called “sounds.”

Users can record videos themselves and either attach their own sound recordings or select a “sound” that is available within the app. Special effects, templates, and video timers are also available.

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“Sounds” are then pooled onto their own pages that pull in all videos that use that sound — creating a long list of related videos that usually follow one tone or theme, creating a meme in the process.

Sensor Tower highlighted TikTok’s rise up the charts as a one of the top three ‘stories of the year.’

“When it comes to worldwide downloads, Facebook’s dominance among the top apps was apparent: Facebook published the top four apps in 2016 and 2017. Over the next two years, only TikTok was able to break into these top positions, demonstrating that it is still possible for new apps to emerge and compete with top social apps by publishers such as Facebook and Snap,” it said in the report.

It’s also on a revenue sprint. In the fourth quarter, TikTok sales grew 540% year-on-year. It was also the seventh non-game app by revenue in Q4.

Chart: Sensor Tower

TikTok is also expanding and considering moving its global headquarters to London, Singapore, or Dublin, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.