This month marks the one-year anniversary of the former US president Donald Trump administration’s initial threat to ban ByteDance Ltd (字節跳動)-owned TikTok, entangling the social media platform into the unpredictable Web of geopolitics.
Despite the existential distraction, the short-video app has thrived over the past year. Now, with its popularity surging, TikTok might be poised to achieve the goal that is the dream of every major US technology company: a super-app for the Western world.
TikTok’s growth and the level of its user engagement have been remarkable. According to Sensor Tower, the app was the most downloaded and highest-grossing non-game during the first half of this year, surpassing 3 billion total installs. Analysts expect TikTok to keep growing faster than its competitors, and industry tracker eMarketer projects that the app’s user base in the US would rise 18 percent this year, compared with a 1 percent increase for Facebook Inc and a 4 percent gain for Facebook’s Instagram.
Most impressive of all, TikTok users are growing more addicted to the short-video service. Research firm App Annie has said that the app has surpassed Google’s YouTube for average time spent per user in the US and the UK.
Competitors are noticing the app’s rise and taking action. Last month, Facebook executive Adam Mosseri said Instagram plans to move beyond its central photo-sharing feature and embrace full-screen mobile video entertainment, citing TikTok’s success.
Similarly, YouTube and Snap Inc have launched short-video services and are also paying creators directly for their content.
However, TikTok might be in the best position to win. Because it has the largest audience for short video and an unrivaled ability to add innovative features to the medium, there is little reason for creators to go elsewhere — and this is just the beginning.
TikTok is expanding its ambitions. Already, the app has made several moves beyond its core of recorded video entertainment — from gaming and jobs services to live music concerts — that could presage a larger offering in each space.
For example, I am having fun playing with TikTok’s experimental farming simulator mini-game on user profiles. The company’s innovative TikTok Resumes, which lets people apply for positions at dozens of companies through video applications, is a good example of the company’s creativity.
In may ways, TikTok’s own career job site gives the biggest insight into what the app will focus on for its next big thing: live-streaming social commerce. By searching through the company’s listings, I found more than 100 openings with “e-commerce” in the title and almost 90 for the word “live.”
Reading through the descriptions, it is clear that TikTok plans to invest aggressively to cultivate live-streaming creators in numerous categories — including fashion and beauty, lifestyle and technology — and empower them to sell merchandise directly on the platform. It is likely to be a large and lucrative opportunity.
There is a roadmap for this type of push, and it comes from TikTok’s sibling app Douyin (抖音) in China, also owned by ByteDance. Influencers there use the app to regularly sell millions of dollars’ worth of products from their live-video streams.
Of course, TikTok is not entirely free from the US government’s scrutiny. While the administration of US President Joe Biden revoked Trump-era app bans last month, it opened a review of foreign-owned apps that potentially pose a data-security risk to Americans. With the new order, TikTok might still face regulatory action.
Beijing’s clampdown on US public listings, following Didi Global Inc’s (滴滴) controversial one, could make TikTok’s eventual initial public offering (IPO) more complicated.
However, a public-listing delay might turn out to be beneficial for the video service. With the financial opportunity in e-commerce live-streaming — not to mention gaming and from other services — TikTok could be setting the stage for an even bigger IPO splash.
Tae Kim is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering technology. He previously covered technology for Barron’s, following an earlier career as an equity analyst.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.
Medigen Vaccine Biologics Corp (高端疫苗) yesterday reported higher neutralizing antibody levels in people who were given its COVID-19 vaccine as a booster after two AstraZeneca doses, the company said. In a trial of 200 participants who received Medigen’s COVID-19 vaccine, neutralizing antibodies against the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 grew by 5.7 times one month after being administered, Taoyuan General Hospital said. Medigen said that the results have been submitted to medRxiv, an online platform for researchers to share complete but unpublished papers. Another trial conducted by National Taiwan University Hospital showed that among 45 participants who received three doses of the Medigen vaccine,
BEATING EXPECTATIONS: With electric vehicles and the metaverse on the horizon, the company predicts a solid first quarter as customers stockpile inventories Key iPhone assembler Hon Hai Precision Industry Co (鴻海精密) could achieve an “unprecedented” performance in the first quarter, chairman Young Liu (劉揚偉) said. “Our performance in the first quarter might surpass how we fared in the past few years, and it is likely that some staff at key sites might only get two days off during the Lunar New Year holiday,” Liu said in prepared remarks for the company’s annual workers’ party yesterday. Manufacturers around the world are racing to build up inventory out of fear that outbreaks of the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 and other uncertainties could further disrupt their supply
The US Department of Commerce on Tuesday said that a global survey of semiconductor chip producers and users shows a shortage will persist, sparked primarily by wafer production capacity constraints. The voluntary survey of 150 companies last fall in the supply chain confirmed “there is a significant, persistent mismatch in supply and demand for chips, and respondents did not see the problem going away in the next six months.” US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo told reporters that the department “in a few instances didn’t really get what we needed and we’re going to go company by company and do personal engagement
EV ‘ECOSYSTEM’: The firms have agreed to work with the Indonesian government and others in creating infrastructure for the country’s growing EV market Hon Hai Precision Industry Co (鴻海精密) yesterday made a major step toward a foothold in the world’s electric vehicle (EV) market by signing partnership agreements with the Indonesian government and local energy and battery companies, in which local EV supplier Gogoro Inc (睿能創意) would also take part. Hon Hai, the world’s largest electronics manufacturing company, signed a memorandum of understanding with the Indonesian Ministry of Investment, battery maker PT Industri Baterai Indonesia, PT Indika Energy and Gogoro to build a sustainable energy ecosystem in Indonesia, a joint statement said. The government-level deal came after Hon Hai last year unveiled its first EV