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Mark Zuckerberg misunderstands the threat of TikTok (techcrunch.com)
113 points by ryan_j_naughton 15 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 102 comments

I doubt Zuck is underestimating TikTok. He has spent a 13 years living and breathing social media, has surrounded himself by smart people, has access to masses of data others don't, and has shown a willingness to admit making mistakes.

Taking his Q&A responses at face value is a mistake. There is a huge element of PR in his response. He is undoubtedly very aware that anything he says has a decent chance of being leaked to the press.

His concerns should be that he cant buy TikTok and the facebook brand name is toxic to the youth. TikTok is mostly youth.

Facebook is toxic to adults to, it's like AT&T or Comcast. Everyone who uses it hates it and can't find a suitable replacement.

A phone with a contact list, and messaging is a suitable replacement to Facebook... and 99.99% of people using Facebook have that.

No it is not. Facebook is a way to quickly call all my classmates when Ed died - I never was friends with Ed but I knew him and it was important to find out. Facebook ensures that the grandparents see pictures of the grand kids sure I could mail them, but hitting "upload to facebook" on my camera (read phone) is vastly more convenient and cheaper so it gets done.

Did you not the convenient word there? That is the key, nothing else is as convenient as facebook, so much as I don't like facebook I remain.

Perhaps we are realizing that both those use cases are not really solving anything real though.

The people that knew Ed well enough to care will find out. And the grandparents would probably prefer an extra visit a month than a never ending photo reel.

It appears convenient but adds nothing of substance to our lives.

I really detest the "if you find value in x you're living your life wrong" argument.

I think you may be misapprehending the argument. The value propositions that people cite when talking about why they use Facebook are certainly understandable. However, there is a cost incurred here (ex. questionable usage of private data, externalities imposed on elections, loss of understanding and control over what shows up in your feed, etc.)

So yes, there is certainly value there. And it's made even more attractive by the fact that the actual cost is effectively hidden to users since they aren't actually the customers. The argument here is more about whether the cost incurred is actually worth the minor convenience.

Tangentially, I've often thought that the added convenience necessarily cheapens the interactions. Things like the automatic birthday reminders have basically outmoded the old "it's the thought that counts" adage.

I'm not. You're arguing about whether or not the losses of using Facebook are worth the gains. The other comment wasn't, it was asserting that Facebook is not worth it under any circumstance.

They are both depriving the user of freedom to choose to compromise their privacy for convenience and asserting that the user is inherently flawed because they even thought they had such a choice. They aren't just arguing that the individual should reconsider their decision to use Facebook, they're arguing that they need to reevaluate their life.

There may be value, but there may be more value in not having your privacy violated.

I don't live close to my parents. I would love to visit more often, but it isn't practical. Pictures are the next best thing so it is what they get.

Conveniently everyone will be and is subjected to a corporation. Nothing new. Every single human on this planet is controlled and owned. We are just waiting for the next command. The more we discuss, comment, tweet, post and share the less we know how utterly entangled and imprisoned we are.

Facebook's biggest strength for me was in navigating the first couple months of a new acquaintance becoming a friend. Sharing numbers and managing all that is cumbersome. Adding someone on Facebook was easy and if the relationship didn't pan out, it was painless to keep the contact or purge them later. To me and a lot of people I know, texting is an intimate thing whereas Facebook was not.

Note, I left Facebook some year ago, and my mental health is better for it.

And yet here we are. Facebook has billions of active daily users.

It's not so much the toxic aspect but if given a choice why would yonger generations be on the same platforms/networks as their parents/grandparents? Instagram is set to be facebook2 and so on generationally.

Why can't he buy it and why can't he buy it and leave it under the existing brand?

It is owned by China's ByteDance.

The same could be said for Xerox, Kodak, Apple, Blackberry, IBM, Microsoft, Google, etc.

Yet each one got their lunch ate in the next trend.

Apple and MSFT do not belong in that list at all. Google remains to be seen, but they’re doing just fine. Apple has demonstrated time and again the ability to innovate in the hardware space, even if you find their products overpriced like I do. And MSFT has so many different extremely successful products they’re totally unkillable.

IBM did >75B this year they aren't doing chump change. But they thought they owned computing and it went a different direction. I'm talking about being arrogant and not recognizing a trend in time. Doesn't mean they're original market isn't still big. Just a niche player ate there lunch in a new segment.

While they are all long lived, they have had incumbents come in and eat (*some) of their lunch.

MSFT missed the boat on mobile and have given up from a HW standpoint. Apple missed the boat on the cloud (tbd if they can catch up). Google missed the boat on social.

I would rather say "screwed up" rather than "missed the boat".

Microsoft never was a hardware company but their software powered many pre-iPhone smartphones. If you are into Android hacking, you probably know about xda-developers. It got its name from the O2 XDA brand, a brand of Windows Mobile early smartphones. They were on the boat, they just couldn't keep up. When tablets became a thing, they had a second chance, they tried to take it, but failed.

Google had Orkut before Facebook even existed, and every few years, they try a new social thing, and they invariably fail.

As for Apple, they didn't really miss out on the cloud. Apple has cloud services... for Apple device users. It is an exclusive service they offer to people who buy their overpriced devices, and it seems to work well for them.

The failures, I think, are just a matter of corporate culture. What helps them one way handicaps them in another. Microsoft focus on business hinders their ability to consider consumer-focused mobile devices. Google machine-centric doesn't help with the human element of social interactions. And Apple focus on hardware limits the availability of their software.

Given up from a hardware standpoint?!

They lost out on mobile, but you can’t catch every boat.

Microsoft didn't recover from the post-dot-com-bust slump until 2012(!), but it's done amazingly well since. It's a magical tail of recovery and/or proof that having a nice monopo gives you an extra long lease on life.

I don’t really think Apple, Google, or Microsoft fit in that set...

A lot of large companies capture a market and then slowly switch to defending the status quo while the world changes around them.

I don't believe that Facebook is at that point yet. If they were they would have missed the switch to mobile, struggled against Google+, lost to Snap, etc.

It's true that he spent his life doing this, but that doesn't mean he's god knows everything person. Truth is, during history, most leaders lost track of certain aspects, we can cite Microsoft, Apple and other bigger companies. Just because he built FB doesn't mean he understands TikTok.

Mark Zuckerberg’s answer to TikTok is similar to that for Snapchat. After he failed to convince Evan Spiegel to sell, his company released Poke[0] in 2012, an app that failed to reach its competitor’s success and got shut down in 2014[1].

[0]: https://www.vox.com/2018/2/17/17022586/facebook-snapchat-pok...

[1]: https://www.theverge.com/2014/5/9/5700732/facebook-poke-is-d...

Facebook also responded to Snapchat by copying their most compelling features and integrating them into Instagram. It has been highly effective at taking the wind out of Snapchat’s sails. Facebook can easily afford to attack threats in a multitude of ways.

> [...] and has shown a willingness to admit making mistakes

lol, we must live in a different world.

He dumped 20 billion dollars into WhatsApp, a company with a dozen employees, when Facebook already had a successful messaging app. That's an astounding lack of sentimentality.

My personal Instagram vs TikTok experience can be summarized in three points.

(i) TikTok's content is more engaging (ii) Instagram's content could be easily recreated on TikTok (iii) TikTok's explore feed is addictive

(i) TikTok videos are high-definition, fluid videos with catchy music. TikTok's compression algorithm almost seems lossless since videos are much more crisp than on Instagram/Facebook. I even believe they are upsampling videos from 30fps to 60fps (although this is just a personal observation and may be wrong). The catchy music is probably self-explanatory.

(ii) Think of typical Instagram content: an influencer posing or a travel snapshot. Now imagine the same content as short, crisp, and fluid videos with engaging music. Instagram content creators could easily recreate their content on TikTok in a more engaging way.

(iii) Upon opening the app you are shown the explore feed. You are shown a single TikTok video in fullscreen and you can swipe up to load the next video. The TikTok app seems to preload the next 5 videos which in practice means that content is always instantly available. The algorithm is quite quick in learning what content you like to see.

I think this quote sums up my thoughts quite nicely: "When I was a product manager at Facebook and Instagram, building a true content-first social network was the holy grail. We never figured it out. Yet somehow TikTok has cracked the nut and leapfrogged everyone else." — Eric Bahn, General Partner at Hustle Fund & Ex Instagram Product Manager

> (i) TikTok videos are high-definition, fluid videos with catchy music. TikTok's compression algorithm almost seems lossless since videos are much more crisp than on Instagram/Facebook. I even believe they are upsampling videos from 30fps to 60fps (although this is just a personal observation and may be wrong). The catchy music is probably self-explanatory.

This is something I didn't think about: do they play video by itself and sync the audio to the video? They could then cache the audio once, and replay for all similar videos.

There are definitely videos with the exact same soundtrack so it makes sense for them to cache the audio stream.

What does a content first social network mean? What’s the opposite of content first?

I'm not sure that anyone understands it, really.

In Turkey TikTok people and Instagram/Twitter people cater to completely separate demographics[from all ages]. People in Instagram/Twitter world would be exposed to funny TikTok videos quite often through Instagram/Twitter celebrities but TikTok is viewed as the place where "rednecks do cringy things that are sometimes funny but I don't want to be associated with".

BBC Turkish did a short documentary[0] on Turkish TikTok celebrities, they were talking about their desire(but a failure) to migrate their fanbase to YouTube since the monetisation was not good enough on TikTok. They portrayed TikTok as a place for everyday people, unlike other places like Instagram where apparently everyone lives a glamorous life.


If one told me beforehand that those people from conservative background would do such things on a video and share it with the rest of the world, I'd say you have no idea about Turkish culture. But now I say I had no idea about Turkish culture and what those people are capable of. I literally get shocked every time I watch a tiktok compilation video. I wonder if those are the same people I see in the street everyday.

As the saying goes, 'everyone has a little red under their collar.'

(In the abstracted, skin-tone neutral sense)

Don't forget FB was once only for college students. And now grandparents and 2 year olds are on it (unfortunately). Even Reddit was once only for a very specific audience. Now it's in top 5 most visited sites in the US.

I think Zuck understands the threat better than most. And this is precisely why the government should not allow him to buy anymore of these competitors, no matter how early in their startup life. No monopoly should be allowed to buy any competition at whatever level.

If they want to compete, they should build their own solutions and compete on merit. They should certainly have all the money and clout they need for that (it's just that often they completely misunderstand the "new markets", but that's their own leadership problem and nobody owns them anything so that they remain a monopoly).

I certainly wish Instagram and WhatsApp didn't belong to FB or any of the Big Tech right now.

Every social network ends up having somewhat of an emotional tone as well that springs up out of its users as an emergent property.

Like clearly Tumblr and Blogger and Twitter, despite being structurally not that different from each other, have different cultures.

What I’ve found interesting about TikTok is that the culture seems so joyful. Lots of really happy people sharing in a way that actually makes you feel some cohesion with other people.

People checking in from the South, or Georgia or Wisconsin, or the city or country, etc. it’s sort of the opposite of the constant divisiveness you feel browsing Twitter or Reddit. Or the opposite the little cultural bubble Facebook puts you in.

I wasn’t aware the internet could still do that. I think that might prove to have interesting implications.

Emergent properties is a good way of putting things. A lot of these things seems to play out in an at least somewhat chaotic and difficult to predict way. Remember Orcut, which effectively ended up as Google's Brazilian social network.

Sometimes rules and other deliberate structures guide the evolution but it's often small things that aren't obvious up front.

And, of course, very different things can evolve within the same social network. Lots of people don't care about monetization on YouTube. For others, it's what YouTube exists for from their personal perspective.

The "millennial" social networks were all about sharing

The Gen-Z social networks will be all about creation

Zuckerberg does not have a finger in this pie and that should be an alarming sign for any Facebook share holders.

> Zuckerberg does not have a finger in this pie and that should be an alarming sign for any Facebook share holders.

Why? Facebook can wait until one proves to be the winner and buy them out. Or, in case the target is unwilling to be taken over (like Snapchat was), Facebook simply integrates their model into FB/Instagram, exposes it to billions of people at once and crushes the target.

ByteDance is valued at over $80 billion, if the Chinese government would even allow the purchase. They've also invested a helluva lot of machine learning resources into building a platform that's hard to copy.

Hard to copy??? It's 30 second videos. They don't have any amount of machine learning or tech that FB doesn't, and in this case we're just talking about user recommendations, which FB is the absolute master of (perhaps on the level of Google, but no one else is close to those two).

If it was that easy, Tencent would already have copied them. Google's video recommendations (at least on YouTube) are absolutely horrible, and Facebook has almost zero experience recommending videos. Effective recommendations really make a difference; that's how ByteDance's first product, Toutiao, a news aggregator, became so popular.

People use youtube for more than 40 minutes at a time on average, FB; 20 minutes. These are because their recommendation systems are, counter to your opinion, really good. Facebook's whole business depends on presenting posts based on how likely you are to engage with them. Other companies might not want to copy TikTok right now because it brings in a whopping $3 million per month, so probably not worth it. There are more reasons behind not copying a business than the ease of doing so.

I'm not sure they can truly afford it at TikTok's current valuation. TikTok's maker, ByteDance, also has a "revenue moat" in the form of their news app.

The time to buy TikTok was three years and 500M users ago.

>Facebook can wait until one proves to be the winner and buy them out

ByteDance is one of the most valuable unicorns in the world, I can't see that ever happening.

> Facebook can wait until one proves to be the winner and buy them out.

Isn't it Chinese government policy not to block such transactions?

Google didn't buy Baidu, and Ebay didn't buy AliExpress, and Paypal didn't buy WeChat Pay.

It's funny to say PayPal didn't buy WeChat Pay.

It might be a temporary thing. Yahoo owned a chunk of Alibaba and Naspers owns a large chunk of Tencent.

> Facebook simply integrates their model into FB/Instagram

FB got away with it because Vine and Snap had really awful UX.

I don't remember an app that lasted less time on my phone than Vine, it's almost like it was made exclusively for people glued on their phone all day. Sound on by default? REALLY?

Vine is a video app -- those tend to work pretty poorly without sound


The HN Guidelines (link in the footer) help clarify why you're being downvoted. I mention this not only for your sake, but to help raise awareness of the Guidelines themselves.

> Please don't comment on whether someone read an article. "Did you even read the article? It mentions that" can be shortened to "The article mentions that."

Moving off topic a bit: almost every generation is known by a non-alphabetic name, except for Generation X, which never received its own label.

  - Lost Generation (1883 - 1900 cohort, extinct as of 2018)
  - Greatest Generation (1901 - 1927, WWII generation)
  - Silent Generation (1928 - 1945, McCarthy, Korean war, civil rights)
  - Baby boomers (1946 - 1964, post-war, Vietnam War, hippies)
  - Generation X (1965 - 1980)
  - Millennials (1981 - 1996, formerly known as Generation Y)
  - Generation Z (1997 - early-2000s)
Some are starting to call Generation Z "Post-Millennial", but I think they'll get their own label in due time. Something reflexive of the time in which they grew up, which is something we probably won't be able to call out just yet.

"iGeneration" is a label that gets tossed around occasionally, but it's so meh.

In the meantime, I've been calling them Zoomers or Zoomies :P

"X" really is the name of Generation X. It was a response to the feeling of being lost and unnoticed after the attention paid to baby boomers. Some of that was just youthful disaffectation: "oh, look, all of the good jobs are filled by older people who don't understand me, and my culture isn't as cool as the classics they grew up with". And some is the lack of a big defining event (basically, war) that focused culture on some specific thing.

There was no Generation W. Only the Baby Boom (starting in 1944 and going on a decade or so) was an actual demographic event, followed by a smaller "baby bust" and an even smaller "baby boom echo" that corresponds vaguely to GenX. Subsequent "generations" are pretty much exclusively in the minds of marketers and social media.

So to the degree that Generation X is a notion worthy of a name, "X" is the name they gave themselves, following Douglas Coupland's book, which didn't coin the term but attracted a lot of attention. The book was mostly about dotcom culture, and "dotcom" would be a better name for it since that was the defining event of that generation (if it had one at all).

"Z" is now entering the same phase: graduating into the world of work, hating entry-level jobs, and not yet having its big cultural moment. If there is one at all.

Zoomers is definitely the right term there.

I'd like to add that before the term "Millennial" was invented, Gen-Y were sometimes referred to as echo-boomers. This is because if you look at a graph of births/year you see a big spike for the baby boomers, and later you see another smaller but still noticeable spike when they start having kids. Hence, echo-boomers

Zoomers sdoes to be the popular term nowadays.

So Reddit is essentially a millennial social network?... And Hacker News too?

Gee. I feel old now. Real kick in the face. ;)

Reddit and HN also appealed to us people born in the late ‘70s - early ‘80s whom I wouldn’t call millennials (I’m born in 1980 and I definitely do not consider myself a millennial). We are an interesting generation, we joined the workforce a little after the dot-com crash but before the 2008 financial crisis and especially before all this social media crazyness.

That would be Generation X. Oft forgot, but still there.

Late 70s early 80s is a cusp microgeneration called Xennials or Orgeon Trail, sharing traits of both GenX and Millenials.


Would mean GitHub is a Gen Z social network, so don't feel too old.

Gen Z Social Network -> Creation does not imply that Creation -> Gen Z Social Network

IMO, Facebook's greatest achievement was getting my parent's and grandparent's generation on social media. You know, the people with disposable income that attract a wide range of advertisers.

Ten years ago I thought it was impossible. Any social media network that can't achieve that, including Snap, is probably counting its days. Facebook also has an absurd amount of user and interest data.

I always thought those who considered Snap to be a real threat (and now TikTok) to be ignoring the underlying revenue growth vehicles of those companies.

Sounds more like apple’s and google’s (android) achievement.

yes, the success story that is google+

Tik Tok is almost the new Vine, but less restrictive and more engaging. The biggest assumption the article makes is that even in case Facebook were to try to buy out creators for Lasso, making new content is hard work and Tik Tok creators have spend hours and hours putting together the followings that they have.

It's not easy to convince such passionate and fan-driven folk with built audiences to switch, it's almost as if Vimeo started trying to pay YouTubers to switch to Vimeo.

> Tik Tok is almost the new Vine, but less restrictive and more engaging.

Less restrictive? Just look at what they do to LGBT content: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/sep/26/tiktoks-l...

Additionally, it's Chinese and thus likely to be in the target list of economic sanctions. For once, something good could result out of the cringefest that is the US-China trade war.

I use Tik Tok every day and like a good percentage of the content it shows me I’d consider “gay.” They may have restricted LGBT content in the past, but they definitely don’t now.

I believe the LGBT+ restrictions are all regionally applied.

I smell an opportunity for Facebook. Appeal to the disenfranchised and oppressed.

How is that any different from twitter enforcing it the other way around?

The parent were comparing Tik Tok to Vine, what does Twitter have to do with anything?

Twitter bought then killed vine...

>The biggest assumption the article makes is that even in case Facebook were to try to buy out creators for Lasso,

The name alone means nobody will use it. It's not catchey at all. It sounds more of a clothing store or something.

How did TikTok solve the two sided marketplace problem and build critical mass?

A metric butt-ton of advertising on FB and Google

If TikTok is the new Vine than who is the next David Dobrik?

"TikTok isn’t about you or what you’re doing. It’s about entertaining your audience. It’s not spontaneous chronicling of your real life. It’s about inventing characters, dressing up as someone else, and acting out jokes. It’s not about privacy and friends, but strutting on the world stage. And it’s not about originality — the heart of Instagram. TikTok is about remixing culture"

This does not fit in with FB's goals and strategy. Zuckerberg may not grasp it, but even if he does, it's unclear how this could be implemented inside a framework that is 100% centered on a user's profile and real-life persona.

From the conclusion:

> If Zuckerberg... doesn’t decisively move to challenge TikTok soon... we could see our interest data, faces, and attention forfeited to an app that while delightful to use, heralds Chinese political values at odds with our own.

I'm usually a fan of Josh Constine's analysis of Facebook, but positioning Facebook as a defender of American political values is a bit much. If the growth-at-all-costs company that led us to social media dystopia is our best defense against Chinese political values, we are well and truly fucked.

I'm curious how well he understands the trend with Facebook. Anecdotal, but all the young people I know via my kids either don't use FB at all, or only maintain an account to share things with their "old" relatives.

His other platforms don't seem to have the same level of deep data collection and manipulation capability FB does.

That's the thing with limited attention, instant gratification economy.

Anyone who can minimize the attention span further, turn blind eye to abuse of children in their platform (at-least initially till uproar) by targeting Asian countries where enforcement of laws are questionable and 60% of world population live; can grow at exponential rate i.e. till another platform which reduces attention span further.

This is a plague, these limited attention gratification is not limited to these platforms themselves and are being exploited successfully for pushing misinformation by various nefarious elements including but not limited to political parties.

TikTok seems controlled by a company controlled by the Chinese government (Bytedance), so China's intelligence agencies can now vacuum up infinite cringey videos of people doing silly things. Quick someone tell the DOD there's a database of silly videos gap between the US and China!

As I've said many times: just move all those old cyberpunk novels to the nonfiction section.

I mean, reading his comments, it sounds like he has a pretty good handle on it? I'm not sure the article makes the point its headline is promising here.

I personally found that the things the article's author argues that Zuckerberg doesn't understand are being acknowledged and discussed by Zuckerberg itself in the leaked comments.

TikTok is the best worst social media out there

doh, never heard of TikTok, just googled it and their logo is giving me a serious headache

TikTok will be gone in like 3 years right?

Almost certainly. It happens like clockwork that there's a new hip social media thingy for the 13-22 set, almost every year. A lot of them fizzle out at die with barely a whisper. A lot of them get acquihired for piles of money beyond their value, and then stagnate.

Almost none of them cross the divide and become more widely popular.

I disagree. I'm not a social media user, and yet I love TikTok, and have even posted a video there. I like to view it for about 15 minutes right before falling asleep. My wife and I get a lot of laughs out of the videos together.

what is 'the divide' in this sense? tiktok is about on par with tumblr for active users

UGC platforms seem to inevitablly ditch grassroots in the end, how many grassroots do you see on youtube now?

I think the fast nature of Tiktok is driving it much faster to that same end, I've seen plenty of widespread Tiktok fake videos that were created with the sole purpose of getting the most views, like those fix things with ramen pack and glue.

Right, to counter that they should allow self-made child pornography on Facebook. (If you’ve ever seen popular TikTok videos, you know what I mean)

I was on tiktok for a couple months and never saw anything like that! Lots of memes and some really creative stuff with music and sketching but absolutely nothing pornographic.

tiktok feed will show you what it thinks you want to see more of based on your past behavior. It looks like you and the parent commenter have different viewing habits!

This does highlight a major issue in technology+policy+society -- there's no way to "point fingers" and say "Look at what this company is doing!". You can say "Facebook is doing bad thing X" but when I open Facebook I don't see it.

Contrast to something like a coal company strip mining, and everyone can see the same thing with their own eyes.

> there's no way to "point fingers" and say "Look at what this company is doing!"

What do you mean? The fact that different people may see different things in their feeds doesn't mean you can't point out differences in (for example) social network's policies (sometimes this is more of an unwritten policy) on media that depicts children's bodies.

I personally don't have TikTok but I have never found a single video of half naked children dancing on YouTube, Facebook or IG that wasn't a reposted TikTok video (I have read about videos like that being on YouTube, though). And I don't think it has much to do with the fact that I don't like to see this kind of videos in my feed. It also makes sense given the demographics of TikTok app.

I don't have any serious citations to give, this is of course anectodical as it's my personal experience and I don't even have TikTok, but anyway I don't think one can dismiss worries like this just by blaming the algorithm. Most of the time that content shouldn't be there for the algorithm to recommend it in the first place.

A 16 years old who dances half naked to a popular song and rakes in millions of views, to me is wrong. Especially on a platform where you don’t need to register to watch the content. I’ve never been on tik tok, just saw videos reposted on Reddit

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