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Tyumen, Russia - January 21, 2020: TikTok and Facebook application on screen Apple iPhone XR

Can TikTok take down YouTube?

Can TikTok take down YouTube?

Good morning! This Tuesday, TikTok's rivalry with YouTube amps up, tech companies respond to the Texas anti-abortion law, #AppleToo organizers lay out their demands, and get ready for an avalanche of IPOs.

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The Big Story

Can YouTube keep ahead of TikTok?

TikTok's cultural influence has been undeniable for a while now. All you need to do is look at the top charts on Spotify, the drinks being served at Starbucks or the end-zone dances during football games to see how the app seems to run the world.

TikTok's numbers also speak of its power. Users now spend more time watching stuff on TikTok than they do on YouTube, according to a new study from App Annie.

  • YouTube still has more users, and so more total watch time. But over the last year, TikTok has taken and held top spot for average monthly time per user. That's only in the U.S. and the U.K., per the study, but it's making big gains practically everywhere else too.
  • TikTok was the most downloaded social app worldwide in 2020 and in the first half of 2021, App Annie found. (Before that, every winner since 2012 was a Facebook app.)
  • TikTok's also becoming an economic powerhouse. It ranked #1 in 2020 for consumer spend among similar apps, App Annie found, though YouTube has reclaimed the throne this year.
  • Live-streaming is a huge part of the whole industry's growth, as people look for what App Annie called "authentic, real-time connection." Three out of four dollars spent on social are spent on live streams. (On that note, here's a dark horse to bet on: Twitch has apparently doubled its user base over the last two years.)

So YouTube vs. TikTok is a big fight to watch. As the creator economy continues to grow, as commerce turns to social spaces, and as the future of entertainment looks less like "a show on HBO about rich people" and more like "your favorite creator goes to the laundromat," both companies know there's a fortune to be made. The future of entertainment suddenly seems like a two-horse race.

  • YouTube has one big advantage: India, where TikTok is banned and YouTube is still growing like a weed. India is the top market for new social app downloads, App Annie found, with 5x more downloads than the #2 finisher, the U.S.
  • The U.S. is still the most lucrative market, though, accounting for about 30% of consumer spend in social. India ranks #17 on that front in App Annie's study, below Russia and Malaysia.
  • And, of course, there's the monkey wrench called China. It's the largest, most engaged market, and neither YouTube nor TikTok is allowed in the country. (But don't cry for ByteDance, which has Douyin and is doing just fine.)

And honestly, all eyes are on TikTok. I've talked to developers and executives all over the industry who are adopting TikTok's UI nuances (the full-screen vertical scroll is everywhere now), learning from its dead-simple creation tools, trying to reverse engineer the seemingly magical algorithm and apply it to other things, and turning to its For You pages to get a sense of what matters in the world. "TikTok for X" is becoming the new "Uber for X."

TikTok may not be the biggest thing in social (yet), but there's no denying that it's the most influential. And as the battle to win, keep, and monetize creators continues to heat up, that influence is going to matter.

— David Pierce (email | twitter)


Expanding to Asia can be difficult, but Singapore is here to help. The Singapore Economic Development Board's guide to setting up in Singapore has all the information you need to find the right partners, talent, and connections to succeed in Asia.

Learn More

People Are Talking

Former WTO Chief Pascal Lamy doesn't think China's tech crackdown is doing any good:

  • "Long term, this is a problem, especially for the tech service sector, which is where most of the growth of the economy in the future will come from."

Volkswagen chairman Herbert Diess doesn't see an end in sight for the global chip shortage:

  • "The internet of things is growing and the capacity ramp-up will take time. It will be probably a bottleneck for the next months and years to come."

Facebook apologized for its AI mislabeling a video of Black men as "primates":

  • "This was clearly an unacceptable error."

There's too much uncertainty to stand by a back-to-office date, Intel's Todd Brady says:

  • "How much certainty are you really giving people by throwing an arbitrary date out there? If we say Oct. 1, who knows?"

Coming This Week

Opening statements in the Elizabeth Holmes trial happen tomorrow. The trial will take place in federal court in the Northern District of California in San Jose.

Lenovo Tech World starts tomorrow. Lenovo's CEO, Yuanqing Yang will kick off proceedings, and CEOs including Satya Nadella, Intel's Pat Gelsinger and SAP's Christian Klein will also speak.

WiCyS 2021 starts tomorrow. General registration for the Women in Cybersecurity conference is sold out, but you can still join a waitlist.

DevBreak 2021 also begins tomorrow. The two-day tech festival takes place at the Château de Farcheville in France.

The Deutsche Bank Technology Conference starts on Thursday. The two-day event will be held virtually this year.

In Other News

  • Bitcoin is now legal tender in El Salvador. The country holds 400 bitcoins, and is offering $30 worth of the currency to citizens who download the Chivo wallet. Businesses are required to accept bitcoin as payment.
  • Some companies are responding to the Texas anti-abortion law: Uber and Lyft promised to pay legal fees for drivers sued under the law; Bumble and Match Group's CEO created relief funds for people affected by it; and GoDaddy stopped serving a site that gathered anonymous tips of people violating the law.
  • Apple's new child-protection features are off, for now. The company plans to delay the rollout of its new features after facing lots of backlash from privacy advocates, and it'll take the coming months to "collect input and make improvements."
  • WhatsApp has 1,000 content moderators looking at users' messages.ProPublica's investigation found the service in general is "far less private than its users likely understand or expect."
  • A couple more companies are looking to go public: Allvue Systems filed its S-1 Friday, and Automation Anywhere is reportedly working with banks ahead of an IPO, according to Bloomberg.
  • Speaking of IPOs, there may be a lot of them this fall, according to CNBC. Between 90 and 110 initial public offerings — many of them in tech — could happen in the next four months, which would mark the busiest year by deal count in a long time.
  • #AppleToo organizers published an open letter to Tim Cook with a set of demands, such as transparency in worker pay, an audit of the company's third-party relationships, and a review of Apple's HR reporting structures.
  • CEO Richard Liu is stepping back from day-to-day business while Xu Lei takes on the new role of president. The leadership change could position Xu as the CEO's successor.

One More Thing

Meet Brad Frost

Brad Frost's last pinned tweet, from 2014, says, "Work hard. Don't be an asshole. Share what you know." He seems to have followed through on those words through the years by acting as a web designer, speaker and consultant on web design.

Frost basically writes and talks all about creating effective websites. He's published a book called "Atomic Design" on the topic, hosted workshops on issues related to web design with a host of companies, including Fidelity and Netflix, and even put together a style guide for good web design. If there's a less serious reason to follow Frost, it's that his professional website has interactive bubbles scattered at the top, and they're very fun to play with.

We're featuring tech-industry creators and leaders we think you might like here every Tuesday. If you have folks you think everyone should know about, send them our way!


Expanding to Asia can be difficult, but Singapore is here to help. The Singapore Economic Development Board's guide to setting up in Singapore has all the information you need to find the right partners, talent, and connections to succeed in Asia.

Learn More

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