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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

Business travel might be going out of style

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Companies have made it a year and a half mostly without traveling for work — and now more and more of them are considering dramatically reducing business travel to slash costs and cut carbon emissions.

Why it matters: Business travel is a massive part of the global economy — with trillions of dollars and millions of jobs at airlines, hotels and travel agencies hinging on its return.

Local Florida leaders eye ways to take on DeSantis' anti-mask stance

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

With Florida at the forefront of the nation's COVID surge, local governments across Tampa Bay are wondering if — or how — they can subvert Gov. Ron DeSantis' administration to do something to slow the spread.

Why it matters: A day after Florida broke its record for daily cases, it did the same for the total number of COVID hospitalizations — set way back in July 2020, per the AP.

Updated 1 hour ago - Sports

Olympics dashboard

Simone BIles competing on the balance beam. Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images

🥉: Simone Biles wins bronze in individual balance beam final, her last event

🪧: Raven Saunders says U.S. athletes planned "X" protests "for weeks"

🇺🇸: Former dancer Valarie Allman wins U.S. 1st Olympic track and field gold

🏅: Norwegian gold medalist, U.S. silver medalist smash men's 400m hurdles world record

🏋️‍♀️: Transgender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard: "It gets better"

📷: In photos: Tokyo Olympics day 11 highlights

🏳️‍⚧️: Axios at the Olympics: Games grapple with trans athletesTrans athletes see the Tokyo Games as a watershed moment

Go deeper: Full Axios coverage