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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

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
7 hours ago - Science

China makes history with successful Mars landing

A model of the Tianwen-1 Mars rover is displayed during an exhibition at the National Museum of China in Beijing. Photo: Wang Zhao/AFP via Getty Images

A Chinese lander carrying a rover successfully touched down on Mars for the first time, state media reports.

Why it matters: This is the first time China has landed a spacecraft on another planet, and it launches the nation into an elite club of only a few space agencies to successfully make it to the Martian surface.

8 hours ago - World

UN: 10,000 Palestinians displaced in Gaza as Israel-Hamas fighting escalates

A Palestinian woman walks after she collects her belongings inside her damaged house following an Israeli air in the northern Gaza Strip. Photo: Ahmed Zakot/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The United Nations warned Friday that ongoing fighting between Israel and Hamas "has the potential to unleash an uncontainable security and humanitarian crisis," in not only the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel, but "the region as a whole."

The big picture: More than 125 Palestinians, including 31 children have been killed in Gaza since fighting began Monday, per the Palestinian Ministry of Health. Eight people, including two children, have been killed in Israel, Reuters reported, citing Israeli authorities.