How TikTok used science to grow fast

Ever hear of Bernoulli’s principle?

Singdhi Sokpo

Last year, the average US TikTok user spent the equivalent of nearly two weeks in the app.

Before the pandemic, it felt like few people had heard of it. Today, 36% of all Americans ages 12+ are using it.

How did that happen?

In physics, Bernoulli’s principle explains why it’s faster to inflate a bag by blowing from near it, not directly into it, because it pulls in surrounding air. (Here’s an explainer.)

TikTok took advantage of this by incrementally increasing its video length to 10 minutes over the last couple of years, up from its original 15-second limit.

Paired with a user experience psychologists say is no different than a Vegas slot machine, the move helped TikTok pull in more content, more eyeballs, and more money.

Speaking of money…

Ad dollars follow eyeballs, and data from Similarweb shows TikTok’s ads site saw a 200% increase in Q1 traffic. This year, the company’s expected to triple revenue to $12B.

But it has a lot to figure out. It’s tinkering with creator monetization. Data privacy is top of mind — heck, it’s banned in India. And former employees report navigating 85 hours of meetings per week outside of their normal work. Eighty-five!

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