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Expand chart
Data: comScore; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

The Chinese karaoke app called TikTok that usually involves people dancing to their favorite songs is gaining traction in the U.S. — and popular apps that also rely on user-generated video are taking notice.

Why it matters: Mainstream social media apps have grown so big that users are flocking to a less crowded and commercialized place, where they can focus on creating silly and fun original videos, without worrying about the stress that comes with widely sharing them on massive networks.

Yes, but: Isn't that what Snapchat is for? Isn't that what Vine was? Don't people use Instagram stories for that? As The Atlantic's Taylor Lorenz explains in her definitive piece on the subject, no.

  • "The category most people on the broader internet use to describe TikTok is 'cringe': It’s so painful and embarrassing that a viewer can’t help but laugh." It's also meant to focus more on lip-syncing, which sets it apart.

Between the lines: You may have heard of Musical.ly, a lip-sync app that had gained lots of traction in the U.S., even partnering with big-time media firms to produce shows.

  • Last year, Musical.ly was sold to a privately-held Chinese internet technology company called Bytedance. Bytedance merged its Chinese version of the app (TikTok or Douyin as it's referred to in China) with its U.S. version (Musical.ly) in August.

By the numbers: While traffic to TikTok in the U.S. is still relatively small, its footprint has more than doubled in the past year, according to comScore.

  • It's currently ranked in the top five U.S. apps in the Google Play and iOS apps stores, per AppAnnie.
  • Worldwide, TikTok, is a massive phenomenon. In total, Apptopia estimates that TikTok has more 130 million monthly active users, with most in China.

The bigger picture: One truism of social media is that there's always a next new thing, and it’s key for the big giants to own it or clone it.

  • To no surprise, Facebook recently quietly launched its own TikTok competitor called Lasso.
  • Still, it's unclear whether this species of app is truly the future of social media or a novelty that will die out.

The bottom line: As Apptopia notes, TikTok has a chance, albeit through acquisition, to be the most successful social app in the United States owned and operated by an Asian company.

Go deeper

1 hour ago - World

Mapped: The world's most and least corrupt countries

Expand chart
Data: Transparency International; Map: Jared Whalen/Axios

The most corrupt governments in the world are in South Sudan, Syria and Somalia, according to Transparency International's annual index, while the "cleanest" are in Denmark, Finland and New Zealand.

  • Breaking it down: The U.S. is 27th, China 66th, India 85th, Brazil 96th and Russia 136th. Scroll over the map to see each country's ranking.

Crypto leads to massive surge in online scams

Expand chart
Reproduced from FTC; Chart: Axios Visuals

Bogus cryptocurrency investments led to an unprecedented increase in online scams last year, according to new data from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Why it matters: Cryptocurrency is an easy target because while it's surging in popularity, there's still a lot of confusion about how it works.

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
3 hours ago - Health

New clues emerge on long COVID

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

The presence of certain autoantibodies or high amounts of coronavirus RNA in the blood could be indicators a patient has a higher chance of developing long COVID, according to a new study in the journal Cell.

  • Other factors include a person having Type 2 diabetes or the reactivation of the Epstein-Barr virus.