What is TikTok and who is it aimed at?

Short-form video app has taken the social media world by storm

If you have to ask what TikTok is, there is a good chance that you are revealing your age.

The short-form video app has taken the social media world by storm, fuelled by legions of young content creators making a name for themselves, particularly during Covid lockdowns.

Owned by Chinese company ByteDance, the app first launched in September 2017. The following year, ByteDance bought US music app Musical.ly and merged it into the TikTok platform.

Suddenly, ByteDance had a ready-made user base for TikTok. It integrated elements of Musical.ly that had proven popular with younger users — including the ability to lip-sync videos to short clips of music and comedy into TikTok.


The app allows for the creation of a short video of up to three minutes, usually set to a snippet of music or audio, and for that to be shared. The ability to upload five and 10-minute clips has been rolled out to some users. And the topics are varied, covering everything from football tricks and make-up tutorials, to science facts and political activism.

Celebrities have embraced the platform too, with TV chef Gordon Ramsay, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, comedian Kevin Hart, singer Ariana Grande and actor-turned-entrepreneur Jessica Alba all on the platform, alongside a host of sports stars. But TikTok is also creating its own celebrities too, with Charli D’Amelio and Addison Rae among the stars to sign major deals outside the platform.

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist