Have We Hit Peak TikTok? Report Suggests Slowing Usage Amid Data Concerns and Regulatory Scrutiny

TikTok usage
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TikTok usage
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Following years of rapid growth, TikTok usage is reportedly slowing. Photo Credit: Solen Feyissa

Have we finally hit peak TikTok? After years of rapid growth – and billions of reported users – for the controversial app, consumption stats suggest that usage could be slowing.

The underlying data, sourced from Sensor Tower, entered the media spotlight in a recent report from TechCrunch. According to the outlet’s analysis, TikTok, despite topping all competing apps in terms of global downloads and spending during 2023, ranked fifth in the world by monthly active users (MAUs).

Per the noted source, Meta’s Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, and Messenger, respectively, occupied the four uppermost spots on the same list for the year. Also on the decline during 2023 was the expansion rate behind TikTok’s userbase, the outlet indicated, with average year-over-year MAUs growth of 12 percent per quarter in 2022 and three percent per quarter in 2023.

Regarding the possible causes of the growth-rate decrease, TechCrunch reiterated that the development had arrived on the heels of TikTok Shop’s U.S. launch – with a number of ticked-off TikTokers having reportedly lamented the sales-minded offering’s impact on their in-app experiences.

Of course, other factors are likewise at play. In the first place, it’s hardly a secret that the ByteDance-owned platform has proven immensely popular (in terms of total users as well as usage time) since bursting onto the scene, as highlighted above.

But with a generally young userbase and a core product that centers, simply enough, on brief videos, TikTok could gradually part with users who’ve outgrown the service and/or had their fill of short-form media.

Expanding upon that idea and Instagram’s aforementioned usership, decidedly similar competitors including Reels and Shorts are reportedly commanding sizable MAU counts as well.

With only so many hours in a day to spend on mobile devices – and only so many ways for apps to play short videos on repeat – these and different rivals are presumably cutting into TikTok’s audience.

Lastly, TikTok has faced ample criticism and regulatory scrutiny around the globe. Now banned on government devices in all manner of cities, U.S. states, and countries for related reasons, the app has reportedly admitted to storing American user data in China.

Having been slapped with a more than $16 million fine in the UK last year “for misusing children’s data,” TikTok is currently staring down the possibility of a full-scale ban in Montana.

While users (and, for under-18 users, parents) have for the most part been unperturbed by the points, it stands to reason that years of security-centered pushback and bipartisan concerns will eventually prompt some to rethink their app choices.