How to Build an App like TikTok — Complete Guide 2023

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With over 800 million active users all around the world, TikTok has become the new app phenomenon. When it comes to the top ten downloaded apps, TikTok has solidified its position as number one. It is known for delivering more than 50% engagement rates, which is said to be the highest number among other social media apps.

1. The History of TikTok

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The story of TikTok is quite a strange one with multiple apps mixed together.

The first app that was created was called Musical.ly, founded by Alex Zhu, which was launched in 2014 in Shanghai. It had a decent user base in the US, but it quickly faded away and didn’t gain much traction.

Then in 2016, the Chinese tech giant ByteDance launched a competing app and called it Douyin. This app was a major success and brought in over 100 million users.

ByteDance quickly pivoted with Douyin and re-branded it with a new name — TikTok. With this new brand they decided to buy Musical.ly and merged the users onto TikTok to increase their user base.

TikTok has now close to one billion users, spread across 154 countries, making it one of the most popular social media companies in 2022.

2. How does TikTok work?

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Inside TikTok, users can create small video clips, stream broadcasts, share jokes, lip sync to other’s videos, add music, create dance videos, and share it with the world.

There are several factors that have contributed to the popularity of TikTok. It comes with a short video format of only fifteen seconds, which is perfect since people get bored with longer videos. Second, half of the users of the app are below 25 years old, since this age group is more addicted to social media and smartphones.

Also, video creators can monetize their content through various ways such as setting up contests, getting gifts during live streams, or selling ads through their posts. Celebrities have shifted over to TikTok as well, where they share exclusive contents with their fans to get their attention.

3. Features of TikTok

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When developing an app similar to TikTok, it is important to think about all the essential features in advance. Building an app with a few basic features (MVP) and then later adding on more advanced features is the right way to go.

Listed below are all the features inside TikTok.

  • Various methods to register — There are different ways through which users can sign up on the app such as through social media, email, and phone number.
  • Option to edit profile — Users are able to edit their profile, such as uploading a profile picture, adding a bio, choosing their username, and so on.
  • Ability to upload videos — Has an option to share videos in an easy and quick manner.
  • Adding effects and filters — Users love to make their videos unique by adding different effects and filters.
  • Option to edit videos — There is a feature to edit videos such as speeding up/slowing down, flipping the video, and so on.
  • Duets — Users are able to duet (lip-sync and dance) to music and invite others to join them.
  • Hashtags — Allows users to add captions and hashtags to their videos that help their content go viral.
  • Commenting and Liking — A user’s followers are able to like and comment on their videos. Plus, there is an option where a user can see all the videos they have liked on the app.
  • Sharing options — In order to get more followers, users are able to share their videos on other social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.
  • Notifications — There is a push notification that informs the user when they get a comment, a like, or information regarding other updates. Android uses Google Cloud Messaging, while iOS uses Apple Push Notification Service to implement notifications.
  • Administrator panel — There are several functions that come with an admin panel such as editing, deleting, or blocking users. It can also show you how many posts a particular user has, offer information about new uses, and so on.
  • Preview videos without registering — On TikTok, individuals can go through a few popular videos before they sign up. This gives them a chance to go through the posted content. But, they would have to register if they want to like or comment on the video.
  • Show location-based content — This advanced feature shows user content based on where they live. The app would have to locate the device in order to show this content.
  • View analytics — Users are able to view live broadcasters and viewers on the graph. Also, this provides information about the number of likes and comments.
  • Live video streaming — This option allows the user to connect with their viewers in real-time. It is popular among many social video applications, nowadays.
  • Augmented Reality filters — AR filters are highly popular among many social media apps. This allows the user to change their appearance, add different objects above their heads, and so on.
  • Advanced algorithm — The TikTok algorithms are very complex systems that only the owners of the app know how they are truly designed. But a simple approach is by recommending videos to users that have high engagement and ranking them among a set of factors.

4. TikTok Tech Stack

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Web Design + App Development = CosmicoStudios.com

iOS App

  • Programming Language: Swift
  • Networking: Alamofire

Android App

  • Programming Language: Kotlin, Java
  • Networking: OkHttp 3

Web App

  • Programming Language: JavaScript, HTML, CSS (React)

Back-end Development

  • Programming Language: Node.js, PHP
  • Framework: Express 4
  • Database: MongoDB, SQL, MySQL, Cassandra
  • Cloud: Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure

Tools

  • Storage: Amazon S3, Azure Server
  • Signup: Amazon SES, Amazon SNS
  • Notifications: Google Cloud Messaging for Android and Apple Push Notification Service for iOS
  • Real-Time Analytics: Azure stream analytics, Google Mobile App Analytics
  • AR Filters: ML Kit (Android), ARCore (iOS)
  • Geolocation: Google Maps API, MapKit/Core Location frameworks for iOS
  • Chat: Socket.io, Twilio

Choosing the right technology stack is important for your app, it is one of the most important aspects when building as it determines scalability. Whether you start with iOS and Android, make sure you consult with your development team to see which is the best route to go.

5. The process of building an App

app development usa cosmico studios
Web Design + App Development = CosmicoStudios.com

These are some of the important things that go into developing an app like TikTok.

  • Researching the market: Learn about what the audience is looking for before investing money in an app.
  • Create a concept: Write down a list of features that will make your app unique. Look for your specific niche and solve the user’s problem.
  • UI/UX Design: Work on creating a user-friendly interface that includes menus, tabs, and other important features.
  • Develop the app: Create an MVP version of the app with basic features and ask users to test it out. Make changes according to the feedback that you receive. The development process never stops.
  • Release the app: Publish your app on different platforms such as the App Store or Google Play, so users can easily download it. Make sure there are no crashes or bugs before you release the app.
  • App development team: Your app development team (or agency) is responsible for making your app unique. This team usually consists of people like the project manager, app developers for both Android and iOS, UI/UX designers, a Q&A manager, and a marketing manager. It also helps to hire a brand manager, business consultant, content creators, and an ASO specialist.

6. How will you monetize?

app development usa cosmico studios
Web Design + App Development = CosmicoStudios.com

The success of any business is measured by its revenue. For you to be able to get the maximum ROI from your app, it is important that you start looking into how you will be monetizing your users.

TikTok for example relies mainly on the Advertising model where they have third-party companies pay them to show ads in between videos, a similar model to Instagram and Facebook.

7. How much does it cost to build an app like TikTok?

app development usa cosmico studios
Web Design + App Development = CosmicoStudios.com

When building an app like TikTok, you have to keep in mind that it is a very expensive endeavor, and it is something you will have to give 100% of your life to make successful. An app like this not only requires a lot of capital to build but the majority of your time.

If you want to build an app identical to TikTok (without the users), it will easily be in the tens of millions of dollars, there is no doubt about it. Now if you want a build a simple and minimal version of TikTok, the price range will be between $100,000 and $1,000,000 depending on the amount of features you want to include.

8. Conclusion

In order to create a social media app similar to TikTok, you should plan out every step of the process and do your research. This includes developing a project roadmap and defining your goals. When creating a video sharing app, it is important to consider your target audience and go from there. TikTok has taken the world by storm, but there is definitely room for creating a similar app with more unique features.

If you are interested in developing an app like TikTok, you can always contact us to help you build it.

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Kenneth Metral

CEO of CosmicoStudios.com. Web Design and App Development Agency. 🪬 You only get one life, make it count.