ByteDance

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ByteDance Ltd.
Native name
字节跳动有限公司
TypePrivately held company
IndustryInternet
FoundedMarch 2012; 9 years ago (2012-03)
FounderZhang Yiming
Headquarters,
China
(global operation headquarters)
Cayman Islands[1]
(legal domicile)
Area served
Worldwide
Key people
Zhang Yiming, Chairman & CEO
Chew Shou Zi, CFO[2]
Roland Cloutier, global CSO[3]
Erich Andersen, global GC[4]
ProductsToutiao
TikTok/Douyin
BuzzVideo
Vigo Video
Helo
Resso
RevenueIncrease US$37 billion, (2020)[5]
Number of employees
~60,000[6]
SubsidiariesMoonton
Lark
Websitewww.bytedance.com

ByteDance Ltd. (Chinese: 字节跳动; pinyin: Zìjié Tiàodòng) is a Chinese multinational internet technology company headquartered in Beijing and legally domiciled in the Cayman Islands.[7][8] It was founded by Zhang Yiming in 2012.

ByteDance is the developer of the video-sharing social networking services and apps TikTok and Douyin, the Chinese-specific counterpart to TikTok.[9][10] On November 9, 2017, ByteDance acquired Shanghai-based social media start-up Musical.ly for up to US$1 billion. They combined it with prior acquisition, Flipagram[11][12] and TikTok on August 2, 2018 into a single global application, keeping the TikTok name.

ByteDance also developed Toutiao ("Headlines"), which began as a news recommendation engine and evolved into a platform delivering content in various formats, such as texts, images, question-and-answer posts, microblogs, and videos.[13][14]

As of November 2018, ByteDance had over 800 million daily active users (over 1 billion accumulated users) across all of its content platforms.[15][needs update] The company has been estimated to be valued at over $250 billion as of March 2021.[16] ByteDance has garnered public attention over allegations that it worked with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to censor and surveil content pertaining to Xinjiang internment camps and other topics the CCP deemed controversial.[17][18][19]

Corporate affairs[edit]

Leadership[edit]

Zhang Yiming is the Chairman and CEO of ByteDance.

On 19 May 2020, ByteDance and Disney released an announcement that Kevin Mayer, head of Disney's streaming business, would join ByteDance. From June 2020 to his resignation 26 August 2020, Mayer served as the CEO of TikTok and the COO of ByteDance, reporting directly to the company CEO Zhang Yiming.[20][21][22]

As with many Chinese companies, the company has an internal CCP committee serving the party members among the employees, with vice president Zhang Fuping serving as its Party Committee Secretary.[23]

Funding[edit]

ByteDance is financially backed by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, SoftBank Group, Sequoia Capital, General Atlantic, and Hillhouse Capital Group.[24]

Products[edit]

Neihan Duanzi[edit]

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.[25]

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".[26] 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.[27][28] 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.[29][30][31]

Toutiao[edit]

The first version of Toutiao was launched in August 2012,[32] five months after Zhang founded ByteDance. Toutiao hit 1 million daily active users four months after its launch.[33]

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.[34][35]

In February 2016, a missing person alerts project was started on the Toutiao platform. As of June 2020, the alerts have helped find 13,116 missing persons.[36]

In August 2019, Bytedance launches Toutiao Search as a part of its Toutiao portal – a news aggregator.[37]

Xigua Video[edit]

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.[38] The platform has since expanded to long form video.[39]

Other products[edit]

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.[40] ByteDance launched PGC short video platform TopBuzz Video in Japan in September 2016.[41] In October 2016, ByteDance invested in India's largest vernacular content aggregation platform Dailyhunt.[42] In December 2016, ByteDance invested in the Indonesian news recommendation platform BABE.[43]

In February 2017, ByteDance acquired Flipagram.[44] In July 2017, ByteDance launched their UGC short video platform Hypstar (Vigo Video) in Southeast Asia.[45] In November 2017, ByteDance acquired global news app News Republic and global lip-sync video community Musical.ly.[42][46] 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.[24][47]

In November 2017, ByteDance acquired News Republic from Cheetah Mobile.[48] In August 2020, it was reported that News Republic had been censoring references to Tibet and the Dalai Lama.[49]

ByteDance also started Gogokid in 2018, an online English learning platform for children that provides one-on-one classes with native English speakers.[citation needed]

In December 2019, ByteDance began a test release of its music streaming app, Resso, in India and Indonesia.[50] ByteDance also launched this app in Brazil and is expecting to spread it on USA and Europe.[51] 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.[52] The app is both available for Android and iOS.[53] Resso says that it has licensing agreements in place with Warner Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, Merlin and Beggars Group, among others.[54]

In April 2020, the Cyberspace Administration of China ordered ByteDance to take down its office collaboration tool called Feishu because it could be used to circumvent Internet censorship.[55]

Technology[edit]

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.[56] 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.[57]

In March 2021, the Financial Times reported that ByteDance was part of a group of Chinese companies that aimed to deploy technology to circumvent Apple's privacy policies.[58][59]

In April 2021, it was announced that ByteDance has created a new division called BytePlus which will be selling the underlying platform of TikTok, so others may launch similar apps.[60]

Partnerships[edit]

ByteDance has a strategic partnership with the Chinese Ministry of Public Security for the ministry's public relations efforts,[61] and joint ventures with a state-run publisher in Beijing and media firm in Shanghai.[62][63]

In 2016, ByteDance's AI Lab and Peking University co-developed Xiaomingbot (张小明), an artificial intelligence bot that writes news articles.[33][better source needed]

Acquisitions[edit]

In 2021, Bytedance acquired Moonton, the developer of the mobile esports game Mobile Legends: Bang Bang.[64][65]

Reception[edit]

Huxiu[edit]

In December 2018, ByteDance sued Chinese technology news site Huxiu for defamation after Huxiu reported that ByteDance's Indian-language news app Helo was propagating misinformation.[66]

US Federal Trade Commission fine[edit]

On February 27, 2019, the Federal Trade Commission fined TikTok 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.[67][68] 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.[69]

US executive orders[edit]

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 would effectively ban TikTok[70] from operating in the country if it is not sold by ByteDance within 45 days.[71] 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.[72]

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."[73][74] On 14 August 2020, Trump issued an executive order mandating that ByteDance divest from all U.S. operations of TikTok within 90 days.[75] On 28 August 2020, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce and the Chinese 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.[76]

Ban in India[edit]

Citing national security issues the Indian Government banned TikTok along with 58 other Chinese apps on June 29, 2020.[77] The ban was made permanent in January 2021.[78][79] In March 2021, the Indian government froze ByteDance's bank accounts in the country for alleged tax evasion, which ByteDance disputed.[80]

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External links[edit]