- TikTok was the most popular web address in the world in 2021, overtaking Google for the first time, according to cloud services company Cloudflare.
- The social video app ranked seventh in Cloudflare's 2020 ranking behind Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Netflix, and Amazon, but jumped to the top this year amid a COVID-spurred surge in popularity.
- Owned by China-based ByteDance, TikTok has become a key digital platform and culture driver during the pandemic. The social video app hit the 1 billion user mark in September and is forecast to reach 1.5 billion monthly active users toward the end of 2022, per App Annie.
TikTok has skyrocketed in popularity over the past two years, rapidly becoming a ubiquitous part of daily life for many people around the world.
As of December 2019, the app nabbed 508 million monthly active users (MAU). Now at more than 1 billion MAU, TikTok regularly dominates headlines as consumers embrace the buzzy app and marketers and creators alike work to embed the platform into their strategies. In 2021, big name brands across a number of categories jumped on the trend as they became more comfortable with the platform and its short-form videos designed to go viral. TikTok cozied up to brands this year by doubling down on privacy, ad measurement and commerce.
"It was on February 17, 2021, that TikTok got the top spot for a day," Cloudflare wrote in its year-in-review blog post. "Back in March, TikTok got a few more days and also in May, but it was after August 10, 2021, that TikTok took the lead on most days."
TikTok and its social media rivals have attracted the attention of brand marketers seeking ways to reach younger consumers hungry for creator-produced video content. In addition to being named the most popular web domain by Cloudflare, TikTok also surpassed Facebook as the most popular social media site — a category that's remained high in Cloudflare's ranking of top websites throughout the pandemic.
"The nine main social media applications were all in our top 100 list of most popular global domains," per Cloudflare's blog post.
The news of TikTok surpassing longtime leader Google as the most-visited website comes at a time of vulnerability for the search giant with its impending demise of third-party cookies. Despite digital ad spend soaring after budgets were cut in the pandemic's first year, marketers are grappling with challenges to performance and measurement as cookies near their end. Many marketers have sought alternative strategies by focusing on contextual advertising and ramping up social media content.
TikTok's meteoric growth hasn't been without road bumps. Parent company ByteDance faced regulatory scrutiny in 2020 when the U.S. government attempted to ban TikTok due to data security concerns. President Biden's administration withdrew a series of Trump-era executive orders banning TikTok and WeChat in June 2021 and is currently reviewing TikTok and other foreign-based apps controlled by foreign adversaries.