Why Musical.ly was better than TikTok

Alex Marginean
7 min readSep 24, 2020


What is musical.ly

Musical.ly was a popular social media app where users could create short creative videos. The most popular type of videos was lip-syncing on music(usually high pitched fast sounds) followed by dance, comedy, artsy stuff, etc. The platform had a lot of talented users that would follow the trends or create their own content.

In late 2017 the app was bought by the company “ByteDance” and transformed into TikTok.

Why was it better than TikTok?

TikTok had demonstrated to bring even more users onto it and it is appreciated by a lot of people from all over the globe however, there are some facts on why I personally think the app was better before it was changed.

1. “Featured” page instead of the “For you” page

The featured page included hand-picked musical.lys of the most inspiring/influential people. Those videos had to be inspiring and creative. While the “For you” page on TikTok uses ML(Machine Learning) to recommend videos based on your interests, it sometimes goes wrong and displays videos that are not at all interesting for you. Because of that people often use the phrase “I’m on the wrong side of TikTok” — the algorithm might have suggested multiple videos of a specific niche that it wrongfully thought you are interested in.

The featured badge on the older version on musical.ly

While TikTok’s algorithm used in the “For you” page gave the possibility of going viral to almost any creator on the platform, it isn’t doing it for me… I feel like because I’m seeing different people with different content every time, I can’t really get inspired or find a specific type that I like. For me, this is too much. On musical.ly you were used to browsing the “Following” page more often because it had your own personality, your favorite people, and a lot of inspiration and creativity that you could expand at your own pace.

The “Following” page is still present on TikTok however, not many people are using it because of the “For you” page and the high number of content creators that you discover every day

It was a lot harder for your video to get featured but this made people hustle more and make better content and it forced creating communities of musers based on their interests in content, music, or other popular musers. The featured page used to include videos from the whole world to everyone, today I feel like I’m stuck with content from my own country on the “For you” page and there is no way to change it. You can still change your region from the settings however, it doesn’t seem to work that way.

2. The trends and more creativity

As I mentioned above, TikTok promotes any person and usually any type of video. My “For you” page is filled with storytimes, vlog like videos, just filming anything, bad comedy, random comment replies, etc. This app doesn’t seem to filter content as much so there aren’t many artistic, creative, or inspirational TikToks showing up.

Musical.ly was featuring only artistic content that inspired many people. A lot of the trends were based on cool transitions, video editing skills, acting, etc. One of my favorite trends was #sasswars and #velocity transition — Two trends that had to do with slow-motion videos that you had to shoot from your iPhone camera that would go hand in hand with the background music. I feel like at first TikTok used to feature some type of creativity like singing and the popular TikTok dances, but now that kinda went away with time.

Who remembers the #RippleEffect #SplashTransition and others?

3. The community

On musical.ly you got to choose who you want to follow based on either their Featured videos, song remake, etc. and because of that you had your favorite musers, sure you can follow people on TikTok but let’s be honest, who spends time on the “Following” page? That’s right, nobody. This is because it is way easier to be popular on TikTok and it wouldn’t be ethical if you were to follow every person you like.

Some of the most popular musers were: Loren Gray, Jacob Sartorius, Baby Ariel, Lisa and Lena, Kristen Hancheretc, Jojo Siwa, Johnny Orlando, and the controversial Paul Zimmer.

Some would say that musical.ly used to promote only beautiful figures, and although that might be true, it was a good point of inspiration for me.

Credits to influencermarketinghub.com for the screenshots

My favorite “smaller” musers were Marco Cellucci and Luciano Spinelli from Italy, Isaac James from the UK, Mady Vivian(also known as #GlitterQueen) and Autumn Klein from the US, Keanu Bruijnen from the Netherlands, and others.

Musical.ly has invented a lot of creative trends and because of that communities of people on youtube have started to make the well-known Musical.ly tutorials — tips and tricks on how to do the latest trends. The most popular muser that also did tutorials on youtube was Erick Skyes(another one of my favorites).

Erick Skyes thumbnails from youtube

4. The Crown

Everyone on musical.ly worked really hard and used different methods to get a crown. It was the biggest achievement you could get on this app and you would get a lot of recognition for it.

5. Badges

Similar to the crown, there were little round badges that you could get on your profile based on your type of content. Getting a badge was also competitive but it felt so good if you were able to get one.

Musers had been able to get badges if they posted in the specific badge category, used #BadgeMe(badge name), and be consistent with their content.

The badge categories were: DIY/How to, Gamer, Food, Visual Art, Comedian, Vlogger, Style Guru, Transitioner, Talent, Animals, etc.

6. Muser leaderboard

There was a real-time leaderboard with the most popular musers globally or from your country.

1st images showcase an older version of the app

7. Live.ly

This was the best way for the musers to interact with their fans. The live broadcasts on live.ly showed the personal side of people’s life. They were fun and interactive and people would usually play games where they would get rewards or do other popular trends like making slime.

Everyone who had musical.ly must know the emoji game — a game played on live.ly where people had to type an emoji in the chat, the fastest person to type it would get a BFF, like, follow, duet, or reaction to their profile.

Live.ly was also a monetization tool. People could get musical.ly coins(by watching videos, getting them from their own live.lys or buying them with real money) and spend them on live.lys by buying gifts for the broadcaster that would have fun animations on top of everyone’s screen. At the end of the live stream, you had been able to see the top contributors and exchange your musical.ly coins to real money.

8. Events, perks, influence

Musical.ly used to organize a lot of contests(eg: #1MDanceAudition, #1MAuditionUS, etc.) where you could have gotten SWAG(backpacks, stickers, pop sockets, etc.) with their logo. Popular creators would also participate in musical.ly events mostly in the USA.

If you were a muser you have at least one popsocket, that’s because it made it so easy to make transitions. Although popsockets were invented before musical.ly, they would be even more used after musical.ly made them a trend.

Those are some of the reasons why I used to like musical.ly better than TikTok. Everything was inspiring then, musers will even remember the inspiring login screens with music and video, the April 1st Prank where you would get a notification thinking that Selena Gomez wanted to duet you, a longer character limit on your bio, and more. Keep in mind that everyone has different opinions and this is only my point on view.

Old design vs newer design (Credits to Hannah Moyer for the screenshots)

Make sure to comment if you were a muser :) Live with passion, live musical.ly



Alex Marginean

I’m a Romanian🇷🇴 Computer Science student who likes programming and design. Here you can read about either my life experiences or different tutorials.