TikTok competitor Triller is preparing to go public, but estimates from Apptopia call its self-reported user numbers into question.
Per Triller’s S-1 filing, the short-form video app has had 550 million lifetime sign-ups. But market intelligence firm Apptopia estimates that Triller has been downloaded just 73.2 million times since launch in 2015 — that’s 87% lower than Triller’s own reports. Apptopia’s data is only inclusive of mobile app installs, which means if Triller’s numbers are correct, the remaining deficit would have to come via web sign-ups.
Apptopia, a popular source for app analytics, says that its estimates are 70% to 90% accurate, on average. The company has hundreds of clients, including Visa, Andreessen Horowitz, Coca-Cola, Target, Zoom and others.
Reached for comment, Triller maintains its numbers are accurate. But this isn’t the first time its own numbers have come into question.
When Triller attempted to go public via SPAC in 2021, Billboard reported that the company claimed higher user numbers to the public than it did to music rights holders. In a December 2019 press release, Triller said it had 26.5 million monthly active users, though sources told Billboard that its user base was actually half the size; then, when Triller said it had 50 million monthly active users, Billboard’s sources said this number was actually closer to 25 million.
Triller CEO Mike Lu said at the time that “there is no legal definition of MAU/DAU.” (MAU and DAU are standard industry metrics used to measure an app’s monthly or daily active users.)
“Triller’s value is in monetizing users, not MAU or DAU. In the past, the press has had a hard time understanding this,” he told Billboard.
On the Google Play store, Triller’s download numbers also look relatively low. Google Play indicates that Triller has over 10 million downloads. This could mean that the app has been downloaded anywhere between 10 and 50 million times (Google Play has badges for 10+ million downloads and 50+ million, but no designations in between).
Triller has had several more bizarre legal dalliances throughout its existence, beyond just debates over user numbers. In the last few years, Triller faced individual legal actions from Sony Music, Universal Music Group and Timbaland and Swizz Beatz, all of whom accused Triller of owing them millions of dollars in missed payments. In the case of the UMG dispute, Lu described it as “a bad ‘Punk’d’ episode.” The company was also found in a Washington Post report to have missed many payments to creators in a Triller incubator program.
Apptopia’s estimates also found that users spend, on average, about 11 minutes per month per device on Triller. Triller didn’t confirm the figure, but a spokesperson told TechCrunch that it “is not something that has any relevance to our business model.”
Per its S-1, Triller earned $47.7 million in revenue in 2022, but it has lost money each year it’s operated. The company lost $195.6 million last year, and in 2021, it lost $773.6 million.