The social media app TikTok has taken the world by storm in just three years.
TikTok reports it has 500 million active users a month, making it one of the most used social media apps in the world.
I just downloaded it myself, and I can't take my eyes off the videos. So what is TikTok's secret?
TikTok is a mobile-first platform for creating and sharing short videos.
Most tend to be about 15 seconds long, though the app does allow videos up to 60 seconds in length.
The platform's story began in September 2016, when its Beijing-based parent company ByteDance launched the app in China under the name, "Douyin."
About a year later, ByteDance released the app internationally - but with new branding and a new name, TikTok, though it still goes by Douyin at home.
In 2018, ByteDance acquired Musical.ly for a reported $1 billion.
Despite being headquartered in Shanghai, the app, mostly used for lip-syncing, was popular with American teenagers.
Musical.ly users were eventually migrated to TikTok.
And now the app boasts more monthly active users than Twitter, Snapchat, or LinkedIn.
Though it still has a way to go before catching up to Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram.
ByteDance, which owns several other apps too, is now valued at $75 billion, making it the most valuable start-up on the planet.
TikTok was initially ad-free, but it now supports different advertising formats for selected markets as it attempts to monetize its growing user base.
Besides counting advertisers such as clothing brand Guess, and food delivery app Grubhub, the app is able to mobilize its influential content creators to generate videos for sponsored "hashtag challenges."
That's probably why TikTok made its debut this year at the world's biggest advertising festival, Cannes Lions.
And while executives are sitting down for meetings with brands and agencies, they're hoping it's their content creators that will win them over.
That video was created by Anna O'Brien, a TikTok content creator, who together with fellow creator, Andrea Okeke, were featured at the festival.
They are some of the app's most popular creators, with more than five million followers between them.
I had used other social channels, and I was feeling really stagnant, like I felt stuck.
So I was like I'm gonna go on this new channel where no one knows me so I can do whatever I want and there's no judgement.
All the sudden, I just blew up. So I literally gained a million followers in about the space of six weeks.
Content creators have been the foundation of TikTok's success.
These users have access to a wide range of songs, effects, and filters to both create and share short form, entertaining videos.
These self-created videos are quick, cringeworthy, and often downright bizarre - a sharp contrast to most social media apps, which tend to focus on highlights or showing the best version of ourselves.
Once they see the video is your authentic self having fun, people love that because it's a place to just escape.
So just how do you create an entertaining TikTok video?
Let's create a Tiktok!
According to Drea and Anna, the first step is to find a viral hashtag or "challenge" on the app.
Then you create your own version.
The second step is to find a music tune and select your filters and effects.
The third step is to shoot and be your authentic self.
Our practice session drew a crowd, but the video we published drew in an even larger audience, garnering more than 250 likes even though I had just created my account.
It's likely those likes came from the "For You Page," a personalized timeline you see when you first open TikTok.
TikTok uses your past likes, comments, and even how long you watch videos, or the speed at which you swipe away, to curate your customized timeline.
And while other social media platforms use AI as a tool for recommendations, TikTok is fully reliant on it.
It removes decision-making completely and serves you the videos it thinks you'll like.
The system wants to know what you like, and it shows you the content.
It wants to make you happy, like, the more positive response you give something the more you're going to see of it.
But TikTok hasn't merely been an entertainment platform for Drea and Anna.
It's also been an opportunity for them to create new careers.
Both of them have quit their 9-5 jobs to become full-time content creators.
Fans of content creators are able to send them digital gifts during live streams.
These can then be converted into money.
Some creators make the entire income off of live streaming.
So they don't even have to do branded work because it's just their fans supporting them.
That branded work is getting eyeballs too.
The hashtag ad, has had nearly 3 billion views on TikTok.
And major names are getting involved.
I've worked with brands from Chipotle, Netflix, Google Pixel.
And because they want to come on TikTok, because on other platforms, it's very much the generic, like, buy this, so you know the influencer was being paying for it.
But with TikTok, because of that relationship we have with our audience, they know that they [we] won't take a brand deal unless it's something they believe in.
But the app is also facing legal challenges.
TikTok paid $5.7 million to settle allegations from the Federal Trade Commission that musical.ly had collected children's data without parental permission.
A similar investigation is underway in the U.K
In a statement, TikTok said: its priority is to maintain a safe and welcoming experience for all its users.
And it released tools that give parents and other users more control over privacy.
Today I'm gonna do my makeup... horrible! Oh, that lady that just passed me was actually staring at me.
Like other creator-driven apps, it also struggled with effectively filtering our inappropriate content.
Last year, Indonesian authorities banned the platform for containing "pornography, inappropriate content and blasphemy," only to overturn the ban after TikTok agreed to censor "negative content."
A similar ban and reversal happened in India a few months later.
To remain viable, experts say it's essential that TikTok puts measures in place to remove inappropriate content. Having a clear profit model is also really important.
But despite the naysayers, the apps popularity is growing.
It beat its competitors, YouTube and Instagram, to become the most downloaded app on Apple devices for the first quarter of 2019.
One of its content creators, Lil Nas X, became one of the breakout stars of 2019 when a song he put together on TikTok, "Old Town Road," hit number one on the billboard charts.
While the app's audience appears niche and targeted toward teens, TikTok says they're merely the early adopters.
The app has its eyes on mass adoption, making it a social media platform to be reckoned with.
Thank you so much for watching my video.
Have you downloaded TikTok?
Let me know in the comments below, and don't forget to subscribe.