TikTok

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What is it?

TikTok is, in essence, a ser­vice for shar­ing short-form videos with friends. It’s a lot more than that, as we’ll get to, but it’s also the key ser­vice which has helped make Chi­nese par­ent com­pany Bytedance into the world’s most valu­able tech startup, trump­ing even the mighty Uber with a value of over $75 bil­lion.

How is that pos­si­ble?

That’s a very good ques­tion, and one we can only re­ally an­swer with some big statis­tics. TikTok (a merger of Bytedance’s orig­i­nal Chi­nese so­cial net­work, Douyin, and mu­si­cal.ly, pur­chased by the com­pany in 2017) is im­mensely popular with young peo­ple the world over, net­ting more down­loads than Face­book, Youtube, and In­sta­gram in the US. It has been down­loaded some 80 mil­lion times in the US alone.

That’s pretty big. Should I down­load it?

No. Re­ally. The fact that you’re read­ing this mag­a­zine tells us TikTok isn’t for you, un­less you’re in­ter­ested in watch­ing teenagers singing along to their favourite songs. TikTok is a wild west so­cial net­work for those crav­ing at­ten­tion – and while we don’t think it’s go­ing away soon, one of Bytedance’s other so­cial projects has been banned in China be­cause its users were cre­at­ing some rather vul­gar con­tent.

Can I trust my kids with it?

We’d put TikTok on the same level as Snapchat, in as much as it’s very pos­si­ble to en­counter less-than-savoury con­tent if you go look­ing for it. It’s hard to con­trol a teenager, but try to es­tab­lish some trust.

So what’s the big take­away?

Es­sen­tially, the Chi­nese are com­ing. TikTok is one thing, but Asia’s largest com­pany, Ten­cent, is pick­ing up stakes in prod­ucts like eS­ports game League of Le­gends and Fort­nite cre­ator Epic Games. As Chi­nese tech money grows, it’s com­ing to the West – and we don’t think it’s go­ing to stop.

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