What happened to Musically?

  • Musically, or Musical.ly as it is officially known, was a Chinese social media platform that was headquartered in Shanghai. After passing 200 million users in May 2017, the platform was shut down by tech company ByteDance in November.
  • After its acquisition, ByteDance suggested Musical.ly would continue to operate as a standalone platform. Company representatives noted that it would be able to leverage ByteDance’s AI technology and enormous reach in the Chinese market.
  • Musically was ultimately absorbed into TikTok in June 2018, with the app no longer available in August of the same year. Existing users were offered technical support and several new features as a sweetener.
Introduction and Early SuccessMusically was created by a Chinese company called ByteDance and was released in 2014. The app gained popularity quickly, especially among younger users, and became known for its short video format that allowed users to lip-sync to music and share their creations. It offered a creative and fun platform for users to showcase their talent and connect with others. Musically’s user base grew rapidly, reaching millions of users worldwide.
Acquisition by ByteDance and RebrandingIn 2017, ByteDance acquired Musically for approximately $1 billion and merged it with another short-video app called TikTok. The two platforms were integrated into a single app, and the Musically brand was eventually phased out. TikTok retained the core features of Musically but expanded its functionality to include a wider range of video content, such as dancing, comedy, and various challenges. This rebranding and expansion played a pivotal role in TikTok’s global success.
Global Popularity of TikTokTikTok, the successor to Musically, exploded in popularity around the world. It allowed users to create and share short videos with a wide range of creative tools and effects. TikTok became a cultural phenomenon, particularly among young users, and garnered a massive and dedicated user base. Its algorithm-driven content discovery system, which exposed users to a wide variety of videos, contributed to its addictive nature and rapid growth. TikTok’s global appeal helped it become one of the most downloaded apps worldwide.
Influence on Popular CultureTikTok’s impact on popular culture cannot be overstated. It gave rise to viral challenges, dance trends, and internet sensations. Songs that became popular on TikTok often climbed the music charts, leading to a new level of influence for the app. It also played a role in promoting emerging artists and reshaping the music industry, as record labels recognized the platform’s ability to make songs go viral. TikTok challenges and trends were frequently featured in mainstream media and even influenced marketing strategies for brands and businesses.
Challenges and ConcernsTikTok faced its share of challenges, including concerns related to data privacy and national security. Some governments expressed apprehensions about the app’s data collection practices and its Chinese ownership. These concerns led to calls for bans or restrictions in certain countries. TikTok responded by taking steps to address these issues, including establishing transparency initiatives and data centers in various regions. Regulatory scrutiny and ongoing discussions about TikTok’s presence in different markets remained a topic of debate.
Monetization and AdvertisingTikTok introduced advertising and monetization options for content creators and businesses. It allowed users to earn money through partnerships, sponsored content, and virtual gifts from viewers. Brands and marketers recognized TikTok’s potential as an advertising platform, and the app provided various advertising formats to cater to different marketing objectives. TikTok’s ability to reach a younger and highly engaged audience made it an attractive platform for brands looking to connect with consumers in innovative ways.
Competitive LandscapeTikTok faced competition from other social media platforms, including Instagram’s Reels feature and YouTube Shorts, both of which offered short video creation and sharing. These platforms aimed to capture some of TikTok’s user base and content creators. While competition was fierce, TikTok maintained its dominance by continually introducing new features, collaborations, and creative opportunities to retain and attract users. Its focus on user-generated content and algorithm-driven discovery remained a key differentiator.
Global Expansion and Cultural ImpactTikTok expanded its reach to numerous countries and regions, adapting to local cultures and trends. This global expansion contributed to its cultural impact, as users from diverse backgrounds created and shared content. TikTok provided a platform for self-expression, entertainment, and connection, and it was particularly influential during the COVID-19 pandemic when people turned to the app for entertainment and social interaction while staying at home. The app’s influence extended to music, fashion, and even political activism.
Influence on Social Media LandscapeTikTok’s success had a ripple effect on the social media landscape. Other platforms began to adopt short-video features and enhance their video content capabilities to compete with TikTok. It accelerated the evolution of social media toward video-centric experiences. The success of TikTok also led to discussions about the future of social media, user-generated content, and the role of algorithms in content discovery.
Continued Growth and InnovationTikTok continued to innovate by introducing features like live streaming, e-commerce integrations, and educational content. It actively engaged with content creators, fostering a sense of community and collaboration. TikTok’s ability to adapt to user preferences and cultural shifts contributed to its sustained growth and relevance.
Legal and Regulatory ChallengesTikTok faced legal challenges in some regions, with concerns over content moderation, data privacy, and national security. These challenges led to legal disputes and discussions about potential bans or restrictions. TikTok responded by enhancing its content moderation efforts and transparency initiatives. Legal battles and regulatory issues remained a part of TikTok’s journey as it navigated complex legal landscapes in various countries.
Overall ImpactMusically’s transformation into TikTok and the subsequent rise of TikTok as a global social media giant showcased the potential for short-form video content and user-generated creativity. TikTok’s influence on popular culture, music, advertising, and social media practices has been significant. It continues to be a platform where users express themselves, discover trends, and connect with a global community. TikTok’s journey illustrates the power of innovative social media platforms to reshape digital culture and entertainment.

Origin story

Musically, or Musical.ly as it is officially known, was a Chinese social media platform that was headquartered in Shanghai.

The platform was founded by Alex Zhu and Lulu Yang and originally featured short videos of users lip-syncing music.

Musically was launched in April 2014, with the official version released four months later.

The platform surpassed 90 million users in the middle of 2016 and then 200 million users by the end of May 2017.

Six months later, Beijing-based tech company ByteDance announced it would acquire Musically for around $1 billion and shut down the platform.

So what happened to Musically?


The Musical.ly app was initially released for both the American and Chinese markets, but it was clear early on that it was far more popular among American teenagers.

The app gained significant early traction, becoming the most popular app in the App Store in July 2015. At this point, Musically had spread to Canada, the UK, Brazil, Japan, Germany, and the Philippines, with millions of videos posted daily.

ByteDance acquisition

Musical.ly was acquired by TikTok parent company Byte Dance on November 9, 2017.

In announcing the acquisition, a company representative described the deal as a “merger” and provided no official detail on how it would be handled. 

Nevertheless, the representative appeared to alleviate concerns about what would happen to Musically under ByteDance ownership: “Musical.ly will continue to operate as an independent platform, integrating ByteDance’s global leading [artificial intelligence] technology and leveraging its reach in China and key markets across Asia to enhance Musical.ly’s offering to users, creators, and partners.

It was widely assumed that the deal would also allow TikTok to leverage the platform’s young user base in the United States and further its global expansion efforts.

Absorption into TikTok

In June 2018, it was evident that ByteDance had had a change of heart. The company noted that the Musical.ly app would no longer be available as of August 2.

The app’s hundreds of millions of users – including their content and followers – would be absorbed into TikTok to consolidate both audiences on a single platform.

Musical.ly users were also offered technical support and performance analytics to help them grow in a new environment.

What’s more, new features were added such as interactive gesture filters, fun-house mirror cameras, and greenscreen-esque background effects.

Key Highlights

  • Musically, officially known as Musical.ly, was a Chinese social media platform based in Shanghai.
  • Founded by Alex Zhu and Lulu Yang, the platform featured short videos of users lip-syncing to music.
  • It was launched in April 2014 and gained popularity quickly, reaching 90 million users by mid-2016 and 200 million users by May 2017.
  • In November 2017, ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, acquired Musically for approximately $1 billion.
  • Initially, ByteDance stated that Musically would continue to operate as an independent platform, benefiting from ByteDance’s AI technology and Chinese market reach.
  • Musically’s popularity was more significant among American teenagers, and millions of videos were posted daily on the app.
  • In June 2018, ByteDance announced that Musically would be absorbed into TikTok, and the Musically app would no longer be available after August 2 of the same year.
  • Existing Musically users were transitioned to TikTok, and new features were added to the platform, including interactive gesture filters and background effects.
  • The move aimed to consolidate both audiences onto a single platform and enhance TikTok’s global expansion efforts.

Read Next: TikTok Business Model

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