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*UPDATE* – The roller coaster continues. Late Saturday, President Trump told reporters he approved of a deal which would see TikTok’s US operations taken over by Oracle and Walmart.

“I have given the deal my blessing,” said Trump as he left Washington for a North Carolina rally. “I approve the deal in concept.”

Following the news, the US Department of Commerce said it is delaying the upcoming removal of TikTok from American app stores in “light of recent developments.”

Now, the department says TikTok will remain available on US iOS and Android stores until September 27th, unless a deal is finalized and approved.

*Original Article*
It is official. TikTok will be formally banned from Android and iOS within the United States starting Sunday, September 20, 2020.

This means that people within the US will be unable to download the app from trusted app stores.

Those who have the app already downloaded can continue to use the app, however, they will be unable to download any updates released in the future.

Following this, an effective ban of the platform will go into effect starting November 12, at which time the app will be completely unreachable in the US.

The announcement from the US Department of Commerce also stated that any workarounds to access TikTok will also be banned.

The announcement came as somewhat of a shock, as TikTok had made visible efforts to sell its US operations which would satisfy the conditions issued by the Department of Commerce.

As the department said in the announcement of the effective ban:

“The President has provided until November 12 for the national security concerns posed by TikTok to be resolved. If they are, the prohibitions in this order may be lifted.”

According to President Trump, who signed the ban into effect via Executive Order on August 6, 2020, TikTok and WeChat – owned by the same company – pose a threat to national security.

The Department of Commerce elaborated on this:

“Today’s announced prohibitions, when combined, protect users in the U.S. by eliminating access to these applications and significantly reducing their functionality…

Each collects vast swaths of data from users, including network activity, location data, and browsing and search histories…

This combination results in the use of WeChat and TikTok creating unacceptable risks to our national security.”

TikTok spokesperson responded to the news in a statement which called the move “unprecedented”:

“In our proposal to the U.S. Administration, we’ve already committed to unprecedented levels of additional transparency and accountability well beyond what other apps are willing to do, including third-party audits, verification of code security, and US government oversight of US data security.”

It should be noted that the United States is not the only country to express concerns about TikTok or even to ban it from their country. India banned the app starting in July of this year, while others including Japan have openly considered banning the service.

Google is testing the waters of short-form videos with a new platform similar to the popular but controversial TikTok.

The company announced it is be launching a new service called YouTube Shorts which will focus on short, catchy videos like those found on TikTok or Instagram Reels. 

The announcement describes the new service as:

“Shorts is a new short-form video experience for creators and artists who want to shoot short, catchy videos using nothing but their mobile phones.“

For now, YouTube Shorts is limited to India as Google tests its features and public reception. 

Though features will be limited at launch, Google says YouTube Shorts will eventually include a variety of features, including:

  • Create and upload videos of 15-seconds or less.
  • Edit videos with a number of creative tools.
  • Stitch shorter clips together with a multi-segment camera.
  • Add music to videos from YouTube’s library.
  • Speed up or slow down videos.
  • Timers and countdowns.

Early Version

The version launching to users in India this week is reportedly a very limited version of the tool including only a portion of the features that will be implemented in the final release. 

The purpose of the early test is to get feedback from early users so the company can better prioritize their efforts before releasing the service to a wider audience. 

Of course, this is likely not the only reason the company decided to test the service in India. 

India banned TikTok from operating within its country on June 29 of this year, similar to the actions taken by President Trump to eventually force the company out of the U.S. 

With this in mind, there is a clear opportunity to those who launch their own take on the tool in the country sooner rather than later. Still, YouTube has already confirmed it will be bringing YouTube Shorts to more countries in the near future.

As part of an ongoing legal battle with the United States government, TikTok has revealed its total number of active users for the first time ever. 

The hugely popular social app has been dominating the top charts of app stores for months, though it was never clear exactly how many people were using the app regularly. 

In a new court filing as part of the company’s lawsuit against the US government, however, TikTok shared data about its daily active and monthly users.

Active US Users

TikTok receives as many as 100 million active users in the United States every month, with 50 million users returning to the site every day. 

According to the company’s filing, that number represents an 800% increase since January of 2018.

Here are some major milestones in TikTok’s growth over the past few years:

  • 11 million monthly US users in 2018
  • 27 million monthly US users in 2019
  • 91 million monthly US users in June 2020

Since June, the app says it has increased to finally reach 100 million active monthly users from the US.

Active Global Users

In addition to revealing the company’s active US users, TikTok disclosed its total number of downloads and active users around the world. 

In total, TikTok’s app has been downloaded more than 2 billion times. 

As of July 2020, the company is seeing 700 million active users around the world each month. 

These highlights help show the overall growth of the app around the world:

  • 54 million monthly active users in January 2018
  • 271 million monthly active users in December 2018
  • 507 million monthly active users in December 2019

While these numbers are certainly impressive compared to most social networks, TikTok still lags far behind Facebook’s 2.7 billion global active users each month. 

Why TikTok Is Revealing This Now

While TikTok has steadily become one of the biggest online platforms around – especially when it comes to younger internet users – the app is in danger of being banned from the United States next month. 

The Trump Administration has filed an executive order which would ban TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance,  from operating in the United States. This came following concerns the Chinese-owned app was being used to collect personal data on Americans. 

TikTok has denied these claims and is fighting the executive order in court saying the company has been denied due process. 

If the company loses in court, it is also possible TikTok’s US operations could be sold to an American company like Microsoft.

It was only a matter of time. Following TikTok’s meteoric rise to popularity, Instagram is taking the social network on head-on with its own short videos called Instagram Reels. 

While the Facebook-owned platform has supported video content for years, Reels shares several key features that made TikTok a hit, including the ability to include licensed or original music.

Specifically Instagram Reels features:

  • Users can create and share 15-second videos.
  • Can include audio including songs from a catalog of licensed music.
  • Users can upload their own audio or grab audio from other videos to use in their own videos. 
  • Instagram will also be creating a dedicated section in the Explore tab of the app, where users can find “Featured Reels”.

How To Create Reels

Creating a Reel is similar to taking a photo or creating any video on Instagram. Just open the in-app camera and slide the menu at the bottom to “Reels”.

Once selected, you’ll find a number of tools including a few specific to Reels:

  • Audio: Find a song in the Instagram music library or record your own audio.
  • AR Effects: Include visual effects from Instagram’s gallery.
  • Align: Line up objects from your previous clip before starting your latest video.
  • Speed: Speed up the audio or video you’ve selected.

Once you’ve gotten your song selected and set up any effects you want to use, just press and hold the capture button. 

You can also combine a series of short clips into a single Reel.

Once you’ve finished recording and editing, you’ll be taken to a sharing screen. By default, Reels will be added to a dedicated tab on your profile. You can also choose to share the clip to your Feed ensuring all your friends will see it. 

Why This Matters

Over the past couple years, TikTok has gone from an up-and-coming platform for kids to be goofy on to a bonafide part of online culture. 

Still, many are hesitant to add another social network to their life by signing up for TikTok. With Instagram Reels, they can get in on some of the fun without creating a new account for another platform.

There is also the issue of TikTok’s recent place in world news. The Chinese-owned social network has been accused of gathering immense amounts of user data and sharing it with the Chinese government. 

Over the weekend, these accusations escalated when President Trump threatened to ban the platform from the U.S. unless parent company ByteDance sells TikTok’s US operation to Microsoft. In an unprecedented move, the President also demanded the U.S. government receive a cut for approving any such sale.

It is unclear how banning the platform would work and the Chinese government has strongly condemned the threats from President Trump. 

With all this in mind, though, there is plenty of reason to keep an eye on Instagram Reels as a potential successor.

Brands around the world can now easily advertise on one of the fastest growing social networks, as TikTok announced this week it is rolling out its new self-serve advertising service to all. 

With the new service, advertisers in every country can create and publish their own ads without the need for contacting a representative or signing a contract.

In the announcement, Blake Chandlee, Vice President of Global Business Solutions for the company said:

“TikTok’s immersive, short-form videos give businesses a platform to participate and engage with a community known for its creativity, ingenuity, and joy. As our marketing solutions scale and evolve, we’re continuously building for the future and aiming to meet the growing needs of our partners. We’re excited to continue supporting our community by providing the tools and resources for SMB owners to navigate these challenging times.”

The service includes built-in tools for creative, targeting, and flexible budgeting. In the future, the company says it will also be creating business accounts which provide access to more in-depth tools. For now, details are limited on when this might occur or what the tools may offer.

What TikTok Has To Offer Brands

Although TikTok has been around for a few years now, brands have been slow to show interest in the platform for a variety of reasons. Like Snapchat, TikTok’s users have tended to be younger and thus had little to no disposable income. 

Over the past two years, however, that has changed. 

TikTok has exploded in users, especially within the highly desirable over-25 age group. Even more interesting, analysis suggests that TikTok users have money to burn. More than a quarter (37%) of users have a combined household income over $100,000.

Back to Business Ad Credits

At the same time TikTok announced its ad service, the company also revealed a new initiative to give $100 million in advertising credits to small businesses who may have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Interested users can apply in the Business portal.

What Ads Are Available

Currently, TikTok offers five different types of ads for brands. They range from the standard post-type ads which can appear in the “For You” area of the app to branded hashtags and image effects. 

The ads currently available include:

TopView Ads – Up to 60 second long video ads which appear immediately as a user opens TikTok.

Brand Takeovers – Shorter video or image ads which function similarly to TopView Ads but are only shown for up to 5 seconds. 

In-Feed Ads – Traditional ad units which appear for up to 60 seconds and function like standard posts, including the ability to comment and share.

Branded Hashtag Challenges – Want to take over a specific hashtag? Here’s your place. The ad unit allows you to create a unique aggregated feed of user content all related to a single branded hashtag for up to 6 days.

Branded Effects – In a challenge to Snapchat’s Lenses, TikTok is introducing a number of camera effects, filters, and stickers users can apply on their own pictures and videos.