For what seems like forever, Google has reigned supreme as the most visited website. It’s the go-to place to ask any question that pops into your mind and provides access to information about business opening hours, directions, and everything you need to get through life in the modern era. It may be surprising to learn that Google no longer holds that top spot – TikTok has taken the crown.
TikTok Takes Over
It started slow. Google was the undisputed reigning champion for a long time, but TikTok had its eyes set on the crown. Since the invention of Google as a search engine in the late ’90’s, the tech titan has been at the top. It’s everyone’s go-to for directions, information, useless trivia, and entertainment. The phrase, “just Google it,” has become synonymous with “just look it up.”
So how is it possible for this all-encompassing and omnipresent website to lose out to a social media video platform? The answer: one click at a time. While that’s the obvious answer, it’s remarkable to consider that a website that offers access to pretty much everything – including TikTok – has lost the coveted spot of Most Visited Website.
At the end of 2020, TikTok was only ranked 7th, but it started gunning for the top spot in February of 2021. TechWorm writes, “… on February 17, 2021, TikTok gained the top spot for a day. Similarly, it got a few more days in March as well as May. But it was after August 10, 2021, that TikTok took the lead on most days.
Where on some days Google was #1, the months of October and November were mostly TikTok’s days, including Thanksgiving (November 25) and Black Friday (November 26).
One of the main reasons that is believed to have contributed to the surge in TikTok’s popularity is the COVID-19 pandemic that saw many people flocking to the platform looking for entertainment.”
TikTok was already on the rise in 2019, but 2020 saw it entering a golden era. As lockdowns eased and people began traveling again in mid 2021, it seemed like TikTok would lose steam. However, the Delta and Omicron COVID-19 variants saw people staying home again in August through December, and TikTok took the throne.
2020 to 2021
To get a big picture of how people’s website clicks changed from 2020 to 2021, we have to look at the entire top 10 according to Cloudfare’s Year in Review. Here are 2021’s top 10:
By contrast, here are 2020’s top 10:
One of the other movers of note is Instagram – it dropped off the top 10 in 2021. With TikTok on the rise, Instagram on the decline, and sites like Amazon and Netflix holding steady – what does this mean about our internet consumption?
Instagram is considered an “experience” platform, and a majority of pictures shared on the site are of people out exploring and doing things. With the lockdown and people’s financial futures in flux, it’s no wonder that 2021 saw Instagram drop in popularity. By comparison, TikTok can be filmed out and about – but is just as often filmed in the home. It’s a pandemic-friendly app that allows people to connect from the safety of their own living rooms around the world.
Amazon and Netflix holding steady confirms what we already know – online shopping and SVOD are still at their heights, with in-theater movies struggling to compete with their streaming counterparts. It is noteworthy, however, that the newest Marvel movie SpiderMan: No Way Home blew past predictions to net more than $1 billion in the box office in less than two weeks – giving a hint of a possible return to a pre-pandemic box office world.
The TikTok Debate
The rise of TikTok is interesting to say the least and may alarm some national security interests. In India, for instance, the ByteDance social media platform is banned due to national security concerns. And in the United States, former President Donald Trump waged a famous war against TikTok in the hope of forcing them to sell to an American company to reduce what he suggested were unacceptable national security risks.
Concerns over TikTok as a national security risk haven’t borne much fruit – although experts still caution against sharing too much private information. Like Instagram, which has been put under the spotlight after concerns were shared by a Facebook whistleblower, TikTok’s main risk at the moment is the way it is affecting teens and young children. Experts worry that body image and mental health concerns should be studied more before allowing the under-18 set more access to these platforms, but parents don’t seem inclined to listen and kid accounts abound.
One risk that has been highlighted recently is the possibility that tween girls are developing Tourette’s Syndrome-like tics after watching TikTok accounts from people who have tics. Cleveland Clinic reports, “Throughout the pandemic, doctors began seeing more and more teenage girls who were experiencing a sudden appearance of verbal and motor tics. They’d shout the same phrases over and ever, seemingly at random, and display jerking or flapping movements.
As doctors across geographic regions began to communicate with one another, they realized they were all seeing the same thing — around the world.
‘Initially, everyone thought they were seeing an isolated phenomenon,’ Dr. Aldosari says, ‘but it turns out that we’re all seeing it — a different age of onset, and disturbingly, an explosive onset. In just a few hours, maybe a day or two, girls who have no history of tics suddenly start to experience a lot of movement and vocalization.’”
However, despite the connecting factor of TikTok – it may be somewhat coincidental. Experts suggest that they aren’t experiencing Tourette’s, but instead are experiencing a movement disorder caused by stress and anxiety. Access to TikTok may not be the problem so much as social media in general – over-consumption by people of all ages can lead to increased stress and anxiety, and during the pandemic our consumption is at an all-time high.
So what’s the answer to the risks posed by TikTok? Moderation. Monitor kids’ access to social media of all kinds, including TikTok, and make sure they have support and a healthy outlet for stress and anxiety. The pandemic has seen a drastic rise in mental health issues needing treatment and with an already overburdened healthcare system unable to meet the increased need, people have to take their children’s mental health in their own hands while they wait for professional support. Limit the TikTok and other social media – and work as a family to re-direct stress and learn healthy coping skills for anxiety. In the meantime, however, it doesn’t look like TikTok is going to slow down any time soon. A resurgence of COVID through December means that people are likely to keep dancing and clicking their way through these unprecedented times.