The Bloodiest Battle in the Shortform Video App War Will Be Fought Through Off-Platform Embeds

It’s not about how many users you have. It’s about how long a half-life your videos have off the platform

Chris Stokel-Walker
FFWD
Published in
6 min readJan 27, 2020

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Image: Chris Stokel-Walker

So Byte happened this weekend. Dom Hofmann’s shortform video sharing app, the successor to the long-lamented Vine, launched with a flurry of excitement on social media as people wondered if it would recapture the success of the original app.

Of course, it’s been three years since Hofmann’s previous app had its last hurrah, and in the intervening time we’ve seen the conversation around online video dominated by TikTok. (There’s a certain amount of hubris in Hofmann refusing to rename his long-trailed app, despite the fact that its likely largest competitor is owned by a company called Bytedance.) TikTok isn’t going anywhere, and in part that’s down to its miraculous numbers.

More than two million people a day downloaded TikTok and tried it out last year, according to data from analysts SensorTower. In all, 1.65 billion people have.

The numbers are staggering when you consider that half the world’s seven billion-strong population doesn’t have an internet connection, but they’re also underplaying TikTok’s influence. Because in 2020, the number of people cognizant of TikTok — and the number of people that have engaged with its content — isn’t just limited to the number of people who have downloaded and opened the app.

Number of mentions by verified Twitter accounts, calculated using the Social Media Analysis Toolkit

When we reported on the case of Mallory Bartow, the American TikToker who went mega-viral after ending up in raptures about the virtues of British pub chain Wetherspoons, we did so in part because Bartow was tearing up TikTok. But millions more encountered her outside of the app, thanks to Sophia Smith Galer, a BBC journalist, downloading the video from TikTok and reuploading it to Twitter.

Smith Galer’s Twitter reupload of Bartow’s TikTok was seen by five times as many people as the original video. That’s despite the fact that Twitter’s userbase of 330 million monthly active users is a…

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Chris Stokel-Walker
FFWD
Editor for

UK-based freelancer for The Guardian, The Economist, BuzzFeed News, the BBC and more. Tell me your story, or get me to write for you: stokel@gmail.com