British residents 'more dependent than ever' on internet services, Ofcom finds
Chinese short video giant TikTok has seen a huge bump in adult users in the United Kingdom, as the pandemic has shifted increasing numbers of people online, according to a new report.
The global version of Chinese app Douyin, TikTok is already well-established as one of the most popular apps among UK teens, and the platform now commands a sizable following among over 18s.
The app had 13.9 million adult UK users in March this year, compared to 3.2 million in September 2019, UK broadcasting regulator Ofcom said in its Online Nation 2021 report released this week.
UK adults aged 18 to 24 now spend an average of 37 minutes a day on TikTok, up from 17 minutes in late 2019. This daily usage is the third highest among apps with video capabilities, above Snapchat, Twitch, Instagram and Twitter and behind only YouTube and Facebook.
The number of UK adult TikTok users grew by 263 percent between September 2019 and September 2020, compared to a 103 percent increase over the same period a year earlier.
Ofcom posits that lockdown and social distancing measures brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to this growth.
"TikTok experienced huge growth in 2020," Ofcom said in its report. "The spring 2020 lockdown accelerated its growth in UK adult reach."
Video calling apps were among the beneficiaries of lockdown life, with Zoom and Microsoft Teams experiencing massive growth as people moved social and work meetings online.
"Zoom had extraordinary growth, from a few hundred thousand users in the first two months of 2020 to more than 13 million in April and May," the report said. The app has since experienced a downturn, and had 10.4 million users as of March this year. Microsoft Teams had 13.7 million users as of March, up by 5.3 million year-on-year.
Ofcom said that internet use in general increased last year, when UK residents were "more dependent than ever" on online services for "entertainment, shopping, keeping in touch, getting information, home working and home-schooling".
People in the UK spent an average of 3 hours 37 minutes a day on smartphones, tablets and computers in 2020－a nine-minute increase on 2019－as well as an average of 1 hour 21 minutes a day watching TV streaming services such as Netflix and BBC iPlayer (24 minutes more than in 2019).
On average, UK residents spent an hour more online per day than their neighbors in Germany and France, half an hour more than people in Spain, and about an hour less than people in the United States, Ofcom said.
The report also revealed a notable spike in online shopping sales, which rose by 48 percent in 2020 to 113 billion pounds ($160 billion), driven by a sharp increase in online food and drink sales.