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TikTok On Top, But Facebook's Apps Dominate 2021's Most Downloaded Chart

Four apps owned by Meta were in the U.S. top-10, but Facebook wasn't the leader.

TikTok has gone through a pretty tumultuous existence. It rocketed to popularity, nearly got kicked out of the United States by former President Donald Trump, and eventually got a stay of execution from current President Joe Biden.

The popular short-form video app remains under a cloud of suspicion and, like all apps owned by companies based in China, questions remain about how it uses data. That's, of course, not a question asked solely of app companies based in China. Facebook owner Meta Platforms  (FB) - Get Meta Platforms Inc. Class A Report has also had its share of controversies in 2021 over how it uses data across its family apps.

None of these political issues or concerns over privacy seem to actually impact consumer willingness to use these apps. TikTok topped Apptopia's list of top-ten most-downloaded apps in the United States in 2021 with 94 million downloads. That's 30 million more than Meta/Facebook's Instagram which came in second with 64 million downloads.

"A lot of these apps are the same every year, with Facebook Meta owning four of the top 10 spots and most of it being devoted to social networking apps," Apptopia explained.

What Were 2021's Top 10 Most-Downloaded Apps

AT&T's (T) - Get AT&T Inc. Report HBO Max might be the biggest winner of the year in the U.S. That's partially because it made the top 10 and partially because of which apps it displaced.

"Many times the most downloaded apps are those with a network effect. Looking at the U.S. market, it's a similar set of apps but what's different this year is that HBO Max is the only video streaming subscription app making the cut. Last year both Netflix and Disney+ were on the board," Apptopia wrote.

That doesn't mean that Netflix (NFLX) - Get Netflix, Inc. Report and the Disney (DIS) - Get Walt Disney Company Report app have fallen in popularity as people who downloaded it previously don't need need to do so again unless they get a new device. It is, however, at least an anecdotal sign that the HBO Max app has made some progress toward becoming a top player in the streaming space.

These are the top-10 most downloaded apps in the U.S. in 2021:

1) TikTok: 94 million
2) Instagram: 64 million
3) Snapchat: 56 million
4) Cash App: 56 million
5) Zoom: 52 million
6) Messenger: 51 million
7) Facebook: 47.3 million
8) WhatsApp: 47.2 million
9) YouTube: 47 million
10) HBO Max: 45 million

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The Meta-Facebook family includes Instagram, Messenger, Facebook, and WhatsApp. No other company has two apps that made the U.S. most-downloaded list.

A Facebook Backlash?

Facebook had a challenging year that included whistleblower Frances Haugen testifying in Congress and turning over documents that showed that the company understood some of the negative effects its products had on users.

"Haugen alleges that the trove of statements and data prove that Facebook's leaders have repeatedly and knowingly put the company's image and profitability ahead of the public good — even at the risk of violence and other harm," NPR reported.

In the midst of Haugen's testimony and the document release, Facebook adopted the Meta name. CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained the change in a letter the company published on its media page.

In recent decades, technology has given people the power to connect and express ourselves more naturally. When I started Facebook, we mostly typed text on websites. When we got phones with cameras, the internet became more visual and mobile. As connections got faster, video became a richer way to share experiences. We’ve gone from desktop to web to mobile; from text to photos to video. But this isn’t the end of the line.

The next platform will be even more immersive — an embodied internet where you’re in the experience, not just looking at it. We call this the metaverse, and it will touch every product we build.

Zuckerberg further described the metaverse as a place where "you’ll be able to do almost anything you can imagine — get together with friends and family, work, learn, play, shop, create — as well as completely new experiences that don’t really fit how we think about computers or phones today."