|Privately held company|
|Zhang Yiming, Chairman & CEO |
Kevin A. Mayer, COO
Lidong Zhang, Chairman of ByteDance China
Nan Zhang, CEO of ByteDance China
Fuping Zhang, Communist Party Committee Secretary of ByteDance
TikTok / Douyin
|Revenue||CN¥140 billion (US$20 billion, 2019)|
ByteDance Ltd. (Chinese: 字节跳动; pinyin: Zìjié Tiàodòng) is a Chinese multinational internet technology company headquartered in Beijing. It was founded by Zhang Yiming in 2012. ByteDance is reportedly worth over US$100 billion as of May 2020.
ByteDance's core product, Toutiao ("Headlines"), is a content platform in China and around the world. Toutiao started out as a news recommendation engine and gradually evolved into a platform delivering content in various formats, such as texts, images, question-and-answer posts, microblogs, and videos.
ByteDance is the developer of the video-sharing social networking services and apps TikTok and Douyin, the Chinese-specific counterpart to TikTok. On November 9, 2017, ByteDance acquired Shanghai-based social media start-up Musical.ly for up to US$1 billion. They combined it with TikTok on August 2, 2018 into a single global application, keeping the TikTok name.
As of November 2018, ByteDance had over 800 million daily active users (over 1 billion accumulated users) across all of its content platforms. The company was valued at $78 billion and is considered one of the most valuable unicorns in the world. The company has an internal committee of the Chinese Communist Party as well as strategic partnerships with the Ministry of Public Security and Chinese Communist Party-supported ventures in Beijing and Shanghai. ByteDance is backed by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, SoftBank Group, Sequoia Capital, General Atlantic, and Hillhouse Capital Group. It has garnered public attention over allegations that it worked with the Chinese Communist Party to censor and surveil content pertaining to Xinjiang re-education camps and other topics the Party deemed controversial.
On 19 May 2020, ByteDance and Disney released an announcement that Kevin Mayer, head of Disney's streaming business, would join ByteDance. Since 1 June 2020, Mayer has been serving as the CEO of TikTok and the COO of ByteDance, reporting directly to the company CEO Zhang Yiming.
On 3 August 2020, U.S. president Donald Trump set September 15 as the deadline for TikTok, a social media app under ByteDance, to find a US buyer, and he then issued executive orders that he would ban TikTok from operating in the country if it's not sold by ByteDance within 45 days. Then at 12:40 PM of August 3, Beijing local time, ByteDance founder Zhang Yiming sent out an all-staff letter in response to the potential sale of TikTok's US operations.
On 7 August 2020, ByteDance released a statement in response to the executive order banning US companies and individuals from doing business with it, threatening to resort to the American justice system in order to get "fair treatment." On 14 August 2020, Trump issued an executive order mandating that ByteDance divest from all U.S. operations of TikTok within 90 days. On 28 August 2020, the Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Science and Technology announced that any sale of ByteDance's technology to foreign firms is a matter of "national security" and would require prior approval.
In March 2012, ByteDance launched its first app called Neihan Duanzi (内涵段子). This app allowed users to circulate jokes, memes, and humorous videos. At its peak, Neihan Duanzi had over 200 million users in 2017.
On 10 April 2018, ByteDance permanently sunsetted Neihan Duanzi, as the National Radio and Television Administration accused Neihan Duanzi of hosting "vulgar" and "improper" content and "triggering strong sentiments of resentment among internet users". In response to Neihan Duanzi's shutdown, founder Zhang Yiming issued a letter stating that the app was "incommensurate with socialist core values" and promised that ByteDance would "further deepen cooperation" with the authorities to promote their policies. Following the shutdown, ByteDance announced that it would give preference to Chinese Communist Party members in its hiring and increase its censors from 6,000 to 10,000 employees.
In January 2014, the company created the "Toutiaohao" (头条号) platform to attract more PGC (professionally generated content) and UGC (user generated content) creators; and later in the year, added video capabilities. Toutiao used interest-based and decentralized distribution to help long-tail content creators find an audience. An often cited example is "Zhuguan Baba" (猪倌巴巴), a young pig farmer in Northern China whose posts on how to raise pigs attracted millions of readers on Toutiao.
In August 2019, Bytedance launches Toutiao Search as a part of its Toutiao portal – a news aggregator.
In March 2016, ByteDance launched Toutiao Video, which was later rebranded as Xigua Video (西瓜视频, also known as Watermelon Video). Xigua Video is a short form video platform that hosted a variety of video clips that were on average 2–5 minutes long. The platform has since expanded to long form video.
In August 2015, ByteDance launched TopBuzz, a content platform for videos, articles, breaking news and GIFs in the U.S. and later in Brazil in 2016. ByteDance launched PGC short video platform TopBuzz Video in Japan in September 2016. In October 2016, ByteDance invested in India's largest vernacular content aggregation platform Dailyhunt. In December 2016, ByteDance invested in the Indonesian news recommendation platform BABE.
In February 2017, ByteDance acquired Flipagram. In July 2017, ByteDance launched their UGC short video platform Hypstar (Vigo Video) in Southeast Asia. In November 2017, ByteDance acquired global news app News Republic and global lip-sync video community musical.ly. In November 2019, it was reported that the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States had opened an investigation into ByteDance regarding its acquisition of musical.ly on national security grounds after it dissipated from TikTok on August 2, 2018. The app now takes on the TikTok name.
ByteDance also started Gogokid in 2018, an online English learning platform for children that provides one-on-one classes with native English speakers.
In December 2019, ByteDance began a test release of its music streaming app Resso in India and Indonesia. ByteDance also launched this app in Brazil and is expecting to spread it on USA and Europe. On March 4, 2020, the company officially launched the app, which it described as a "social music streaming app". Resso allows users to highlight and share lyrics, comments and other user-generated content with each other alongside streaming of full-length tracks. The app is both available for Android and iOS. Resso says that it has licensing agreements in place with Warner Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, Merlin and Beggars Group, among others.
There are some chances that India can ban the service due to privacy issues with China. Government of India assumes that China is collecting national interest through Resso.
List of overseas products
- Vigo Video/Hypster/Flipagram: Merged with TikTok.
- CapCut: Video editor on mobile device.
- News Republic
- Lark: Productivity tools like G Suite.
- Helo: Micro-blogging for India.
- BaBe: News-feed for Indonesia.
- Resso: Worldwide music streaming media.
- Peoople: Social recommendation by friends and KOLs.
- Sharee: Interest-feed for the Japanese market.
The Underlying AI Technology
In 2016, ByteDance's AI Lab and Peking University co-developed Xiaomingbot (张小明), an artificial intelligence bot that writes news articles. The bot published 450 articles during the 15-day 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. In general, Xiaomingbot published stories approximately two seconds after the event ended.
ByteDance's research arm, the AI lab, was founded in March 2016. It is headed by Wei-Ying Ma, former assistant managing director of Microsoft Research Asia. The lab's research focuses on AI for understanding information (text, images, videos) in depth, and developing large-scale machine learning algorithms for personalized information recommendations.
In December 2018, ByteDance sued Huxiu for defamation after Huxiu reported that ByteDance's Indian-language news app Helo was propagating misinformation.
US Federal Trade Commission
On February 27, 2019, the FTC fined TikTok Inc. US$5.7 million for collecting information from minors under the age of 13 in violation of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act in the United States. ByteDance later added a kids-only mode to TikTok which blocks the upload of videos, the building of user profiles, direct messaging, and commenting on other's videos, while still allowing the viewing and recording of content.
Ban on TikTok
Citing national security issues the Indian Government banned TikTok along with 58 Chinese apps including UC Browser, ShareIt, WeChat, Club Factory, CamScanner on June 29, 2020.  It was later reported that Bytedance had faced a loss of about $6 billion due to this ban.
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