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Anatomy of Tik Tok, the Viral Video App from China's Bytedance (factordaily.com)
53 points by ston3r 8 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 23 comments

Like eating potato chips, watching the videos on Douyin (Tik Tok) can become a non-stop action because it's a super convenient low-effort pleasurable thing to do, it's faster than fast food while lying on the sofa.

The app opens in sub-second and then starts playing a video right away, the video is also selected to conform to your previous likings. Or I also like to say it's the mobile phone era's bubble gums, a source of endless simple pleasure. Of course there are also many videos providing valuable educational content.

From my own experience, I feel Douyin has enforced pretty strict policies regarding what video are acceptable. A while ago I submitted a video about early day internet success stories such as eBay/PlentyOfFish/etc., it was rejected repeatedly. No reasons were given and I didn't bother to ask. I suspect it's because I had words "rich"/"money"/"quick success" in the description. You often hear other people's complaints in their videos, such as "My last one was deleted by Douyin and I don't know why." Anyway, it's just my one anecdote.

I think the analogy extends in other ways too: too many chips are bad for you and leave you feeling yucky... Same is true for video consumption? I just think people should be careful. :)

That indeed was what in my mind. For viewers it can be a huge time waste. I lost many nights' sleep watching kittens, puppies or comedy videos, often from 11pm until 5am, in my early Douyin days. The platform kept giving me stuff from the same category again and again. There was also the suspense that you wish to know what the next video would be like. But the next day I felt terrible. Nowadays I don't open Douyin/Tik Tok after getting on bed.

On the other hand, this form (of convenience and simple pleasure) matches our basic desire, imo. So maybe it will continue to develop and expand.

I should say Douyin/Tik Tok is also great for people to express themselves, to create artistic content, to provide valuable content. So potato chip or bubble gum are naturally not very accurate descriptions.

This description pretty much fits YT. Play cat video, it will stream cat videos at you whole day. Of course Youtube is banned in China.

This is a product-level dissection of what makes the app tick, not a technical discussion. The article discusses integration with other social networks, but doesn't discuss tech stack or research.

I'm actually a lot more interested in the product decisions than the tech stack. I wish there more product deep dives on HN.

What research could be the research there, tho. It's a very simple principle.

dons tinfoil hat

Does anyone else find the jittery multicolored icon suspicious? It seems like it's begging to be used as a fingerprint to identify from which phone a video was recorded. It basically hides surveillance in plain site, and the fingerprint survives sharing/re-encoding.

You can see this one at least; there's a load of fingerprinting algorithms out there that don't rely on something plainly visible.

Instead it's a very effective (IMO) watermark that draws the attention to the app and it was probably one of the reasons why it's so popular. I've seen it on Reddit a few times going 'wtf is that?'. Think of it like the modern-day's "Unregistered HyperCam 2".

That's a clever idea... not sure I would have ever thought of that. I need a better tinfoil hat.

I've been seeing this weird multicolored icon all around in imgur and reddit for some time now, but I never knew it was Bytedance (or even knew this company existed.) Never cared enough to do a reverse image search but it always amazed me that it was all over the place.

To give you an idea of how addicting this app can be for teens and tweens, kids in Hong Kong are risking their lives for likes:


Another article about how children don't understand the implications of putting their personal information in this app:


It’s absolutely viral and addicting here in China, as well as the news aggreation app ‘Jinri Toutiao’(Toutiao.com) from the same company. These apps could easily kill a large amount of time and the recommendation system behind is the magical sauce imho.

It is the top 1 free app in China’s App Store for some time now

So basically this is the new Vine?

I wouldn't call it "new".

oh hey, I can download this app in the US app store now. that's a pretty recent change

They acquired Music.ly's users into their app, which I think kick-started their non-China userbase ...

The first paragraph of the article confirms:

> Edit Notes: Chinese app company Bytedance acquired Musical.ly for nearly $1 billion in November 2017. Last week, it shut down Musical.ly and migrated all its users and content to Tik Tok, another short video app it owns. Musical.ly was incredibly popular in India with over 15 million users in the country. With the migration, Bytedance has created a large user base in the country.

Yes noted. -- I commented first, then read the article, sorry!

They left off the part that gets brought up anytime someone asks what musical.ly is/was. Which is an app filled with young teens being advertised to old men. I haven't used the app yet, I was interested in checking it out and maybe I'll play around with it but every discuss about tiktok and musical.ly comes back to it just being a weird platform that seems to exploit young teens and showcase the videos to old men.

Here's a video someone made recently explaining it better https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5PmphkNDosg

Can you please explain it yourself because flicking through that 12 minute video he just seems to be making fun of it.

My niece told me last year that it was THE app of her school.

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