TikTok Technology Stack: What Is It?

Here’s what the TikTok technology stack is:

The TikTok technology stack is a list of all of the essential tools and platforms that are used to make TikTok run.

The stack includes Swift, Kotlin, Amazon Web Services, Azure, Node.js, SQL, MongoDB, Cassandra, Azure Stream Analytics, Google Cloud Messaging, and Apple Push Notifications.

So if you want to learn all about what the TikTok technology stack is exactly, then you’re in the right place.

Let’s get started!

TikTok Technology Stack: What Is It? (All You Need to Know)

What Is the TikTok Technology Stack?

Before we jump into the deep end, let me simplify this whole discussion.

What is a technology stack?

Basically, it’s the list of everything that a product or service uses in order to function.

In the case of an app like TikTok, the technology stack will have everything used to develop, run, and maintain the app.

TikTok is a pretty major app in the world.

It’s used by a lot of people, it handles absolutely insane amounts of data, it is basically always up and available, and it’s rather sophisticated.

So, the TikTok technology stack has more than a few heavy hitters in terms of software development and management platforms.

I’ll take you through the whole stack in a bit.

For now, I wanted to explain that it’s the full list of essentials for making TikTok.

If you wanted to make your own TikTok, you might use a lot of things from this stack.

What Is Included in the TikTok Technology Stack?

I’m going to explain every item in the TikTok stack a little later.

Before that, I can give you the brief overview:

  • Swift for iOS development
  • Kotlin for Android development
  • Amazon Web Services and Azure for cloud management
  • Node.js for JavaScript backend
  • SQL, MongoDB, and Cassandra for databases
  • Azure Stream Analytics for real-time analytics
  • Google Cloud Messaging and Apple Push Notifications for in-app notifications

That’s the quick version.

If you want to know a lot more about each of these and how they work with Tiktok, keep reading.

What Does the TikTok Technology Stack Do?

I’ve briefly covered this, but the more detailed answer is that each item in the stack serves an essential function for TikTok.

As an example, Swift and Kotlin are programming languages that allow developers to make apps specifically for iOS and Android respectively.

If you want your app on the app stores for both types of devices, you have to code it in both languages.

Meanwhile, other items in the stack carry out completely different purposes.

Several are there just to manage the overwhelming volume of data that runs through TikTok.

Yet more are there for notifications and even tracking systems to help TikTok stay on top of potential service issues.

It’s the culmination of everything in the stack that ultimately makes TikTok the app we all know so well.

How Does Each Part of the TikTok Technology Stack Work? (8 Sections)

How does the technology stack actually work for TikTok?

To explain that, we’ll have to break it down into sections.

Each part of the stack has its own purpose, and those purposes are pretty different across the board.

Swift is not offering the same technological purposes as SQL.

So, I have them all listed, one at a time, with explanations of how they work and why TikTok needs them.

#1 Swift

Swift is the programming language that is used to build native apps for iOS.

So, if you want your app on the Apple App Store, then you have to build it using Swift.

There are workarounds here, but you can rest assured that TikTok built their iOS version with Swift.

This is how TikTok built the core software and mechanics that run the app on iOS devices.

If you have ever coded in any language, then you get the idea.

For those who haven’t, it’s like this.

Tiktok designed a general set of algorithms to govern the app and how it functions.

Those algorithms are really just the logic that a computer will follow to run the app.

That logic was then taken and coded into the specific language of Swift.

That coding is what makes it work specifically on iOS devices.

That’s what Swift accomplishes on the TikTok technology stack. It makes the app function when it’s used via iOS.

#2 Kotlin

Kotlin is a programming language that works with Android.

Now, Android is available for a wider range of devices than iOS, so there are definitely more ways to make a native Android app than you would find for an iPhone app.

TikTok chose Kotlin for this.

I don’t know why Kotlin is preferred over any other resource, but that’s what’s listed by TikTok.

So, Kotlin is serving the same function as Swift, but for Android devices instead of Apple devices.

TikTok coded the general logic of the app design into Kotlin, and as a result, there is a version on the Google Play Store that works very well on Android devices.

That’s really it for this one.

#3 Amazon Web Services and Azure

Amazon Web Services and Azure are competing cloud resources.

As you can guess, Amazon Web Services is owned by Amazon.

Meanwhile, Azure is owned by Microsoft.

TikTok is invested in both, and so the app leans on both.

The primary purpose of each platform is to provide cloud services and management.

If you’ve used TikTok, you know that you need an internet connection in order for it to work.

That’s because it’s a cloud-based app.

TikTok splits cloud management across both Amazon Web Services and Azure.

TikTok hasn’t explained the motivation behind this decision, but it’s probably just for better reliability.

If either cloud platform has trouble, the other can pick up the slack.

Considering the crazy number of TikTok users and the fact that it’s all cloud-based, it makes sense to build a little redundancy into the app.

#4 Node.js

Node.js is a JavaScript runtime.

That means it’s an environment for building and running software applications that use JavaScript.

In the case of TikTok, Node.js is primarily used for backend management.

So, a bunch of the stuff that happens on TikTok servers and behind the scenes is managed via JavaScript, and Node.js is the tool TikTok uses for their JavaScript features and applications.

For a little insight, a lot of the backend management being discussed here is routing traffic, controlling TikTok servers to keep them efficient, and the raw data processing that makes TikTok function.

There’s a lot to the backend, and I don’t want to derail this whole thing, so let’s leave it at this.

Node.js is doing the heavy lifting for a lot of how TikTok actually works.

#5 SQL, MongoDB, and Cassandra

All three of these are database management platforms.

SQL is the oldest and most established.

MongoDB and Cassandra offer newer ways to manage databases. 

Skipping the extremely technical portions of this discussion, all three are designed to help computer systems handle large amounts of information, and each offers different strengths and weaknesses to this end.

TikTok uses all three, and the company has not disclosed exactly how each is utilized.

My best guess is that TikTok has a lot of different servers, and depending on the design, some servers prefer each of these separate database platforms.

As an example, MongoDB is great with Azure and Amazon Web Services.

So, all three are used in some place or another.

When you think about the size of TikTok, the company needs a lot of servers to function, so it makes sense that more than one database is in use.

#6 Azure Stream Analytics

Azure Stream Analytics has a very different purpose.

This, as the name implies, is about analyzing TikTok systems.

Azure can actually provide real-time statistics.

These statistics can help TikTok with a lot of different things.

The analysis can help TikTok find service problems as soon as they arise.

So, if a server is having trouble, TikTok can address it and prevent downtime on the app.

On a completely different note, the analytics can also help inform the TikTok algorithm.

This helps with streamlining connectivity and getting information to and from users as desired.

Ultimately, there’s a lot a company like TikTok can do with real-time analytics, and it’s not at all surprising to see in the technology stack.

#7 Google Cloud Messaging

Google Cloud Messaging is a tool made specifically for Android developers (and expanded to all Google APIs).

The idea here is that if you design an app, you can use this service to send notifications to users.

Have you used TikTok? Did you get notifications?

If you’re using the Android version of the app, Google Cloud Messaging is actually handling that notification system.

TikTok is using it primarily to enhance the user experience and help individual users manage how they interact with the app.

#8 Apple Push Notifications

Apple Push Notifications is essentially doing the same thing as above, but for iOS devices.

It’s a message management system run by Apple, and it’s available to iOS developers.

While Apple Push Notifications are designed quite differently from Google Cloud Messaging, the purpose for TikTok is the same.

It’s about creating a reliable notification system that users can then independently manage.

It empowers users to have more control over their own experiences, and it helps to make TikTok a more reliable app all around.