TikTok and Chinese version Douyin grossed nearly $177 million in user spending in 2019, more than five times the revenue it earned in 2018, according to analytics firm Sensor Tower.

Why it matters: The controversies around TikTok raised in the past year have had very limited impact on its overall growth. The Bytedance app was the second most-downloaded mobile application in 2019, led only by Facebook’s WhatsApp.

  • In addition to being banned in India in April for pornographic content, US lawmakers began scrutinizing the app near the end of the year for risks to user data privacy and national security.

Details: TikTok and Douyin’s user spending in 2019 accounted for 71% of the all-time total of $247.6 million earned by the two versions of the app.

  • The fourth quarter was its best quarter yet, with user spending during the period amounting to $88.5 million, a 500% year-on-year increase.
  • Douyin users from China contributed 69% of revenue earned on the two versions during the year, spending more than $122.9 million on iOS alone in 2019. TikTok users in the US came second with $36 million, which accounted for 20% of the total user spending during the year.

Context: Bytedance has made a number of moves to assure US lawmakers that the platform does not pose a threat to data security or privacy for users in the country.

  • Bytedance has been moving to separate TikTok from its Chinese operations since as early as the third quarter of 2019, moves which included hiring more US engineers for the app and setting up a California-based data management team.
  • Alex Zhu, the head of TikTok, originally planned to meet with several Republican senators in the week of Dec. 9 but postponed the meeting to fall after the holidays.
  • TikTok released its first transparency report on Dec. 30 to display the number of information and removal requests it received from government bodies and law enforcement agencies in 2019. The Indian government topped the list of such requests, while none came from China, the report said.

Tony Xu is Shanghai-based tech reporter. Connect with him via e-mail: tony.xu@technode.com

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