On Friday, TikTok and WeChat stared down a frightening future in the United States. After Sunday, their respective apps would could no longer be downloaded in major app marketplaces. Even worse for WeChat, a messaging and social media app with a relatively small user base in America that’s seen as an invaluable link to mainland China, Monday could have brought an all-out stoppage of service.
While both apps evaded such a fate—at least for now—new users scrambled to get last-minute downloads in before the deadline.
WeChat saw 110,000 U.S. installs on Friday and Saturday, according to app analytics firm Sensor Tower, a 1,058% increase from the same period the week prior. The app skyrocketed from 1,385 to 71 in Apple’s App Store between Friday morning and Saturday night, marking the first time it had even placed in the top 500 apps in 2020. (App Annie, a similar firm, counted 65,000 downloads on Friday and Saturday.)
TikTok raked in 700,000 U.S. installs on Friday and Saturday, though that number was down 11% from the same time last week, according to Sensor Tower (only 340,000 according to App Annie).
TikTok’s incredible user growth spiked in March as the Covid-19 pandemic shut down most of the United States, reaching 10.5 million U.S. downloads that month, according to Sensor Tower. Since then, new monthly installs have fallen by about 1 million each month, reaching about 5.5 million U.S. downloads in August.
WeChat avoided a shutdown this weekend after a judge issued an injunction against an Aug. 6 executive order that targeted the Tencent-owned company, saying that the ban likely violates users’ First Amendment rights, especially those with no other way to communicate with friends and relatives in China.
Meanwhile, the Commerce Department extended the deadline for the ban on TikTok to go into effect, pushing it back one week to Sept. 27, citing “positive developments” in TikTok’s efforts to appease the government. President Donald Trump gave TikTok’s proposal his “blessing” this weekend, after which TikTok announced its plans to break off into a new U.S.-based company called TikTok Global, with Oracle and Walmart each receiving a financial stake in the company.