When shelter-in-place orders marked the beginning of our "new normal," our online behaviour began to shift with the times. Most notably, TikTok boomed like never before. After two years of steady rise, the Chinese-owned platform broke through the two-billion download mark in the first quarter of 2020, bringing millennials and boomers into a previously Gen Z-dominated space. More eyes led to more scrutiny, and everyone from popular TikTokers to the platform's own country of origin has come under increased fire.
On Tuesday, four of TikTok's most-popular creators announced that they're leaving the platform, citing security and privacy concerns, according to the Los Angeles Times. Josh Richards, Griffin Johnson, Noah Beck, and Anthony Reeves — of Sway House fame — are leaving TikTok and encouraging their combined following of nearly 50 million to join them on Triller, a competing short-form video app.
Not only are they leaving TikTok for Triller, but they're now on Triller's payroll: Josh Richards, who has 251,800 followers on Triller, will now act as chief strategy officer. Noah Beck, Griffin Johnson, and Anthony Reeves signed on as investors and equity shareholders, according to the Times.
Triller was first introduced in 2015 as a "game-changing music video maker app." You can record yourself lip-synching or performing a song, then utilise the app's "editing algorithm that uses intelligent audio and facial analysis to decide when to cut." In other words, you perform and the app edits your video for you. At first, users were encouraged to share their final product on social media, but a year in, the app added follow buttons and explore pages to turn the editing app into a social platform. Refinery29 reached out to Triller for comment and will update this story if we hear back.
In the race to de-throne TikTok, competitors like Byte and Facebook's Reels have all been known to lure former Vine stars or popular TikTok creators to their platforms via financial incentives — this Triller news is probably the first of a series of similar announcements.
Richards, Johnson, and Beck all shared videos of themselves together wearing matching Triller shirts, announcing the transition on both their Trillers and TikToks, and the three are prominently featured on Triller's popular user section. Antony Reeves is in a relationship with Avani Gregg, a TikTok star in her own right. Since the two frequently make videos together, is an Avani presence on Triller inevitable?
It should be noted, however, that this TikTok exodus also marks a turning point in Sway House's troubled history. Sway House consists of a revolving door of creators 18 to 21 years old. This summer, two of its members were arrested, resulting in a barrage of doxing and harassment on Sway House members. Reeves had to ask fans to chill out and Richards went on hiatus. Then the Sway House and Hype House drama exploded earlier this month because two teenagers kissed. Through it all, Sway House members have generally been cast as the antagonists that stoke the flames and have been met with consistent hate and harassment. All of this to say, that despite their popularity, their presence on TikTok has certainly soured over the last few months. Nevertheless, they all have continued to post to TikTok after announcing their Triller deal.
There are videos on TikTok from as early as 2018 — the year TikTok was introduced to the U.S. via Musical.ly — where creators share their Triller videos. At the time, this might've signalled the kind of cross-pollination that made Instagram popular on Facebook and made Musical.ly popular thanks to Vine. In any case, the fact that Triller's visibility is largely catapulted by TikTok stars is just a testament to TikTok's place in our culture.