According to data from the Pew Research Center, TikTok is taking away Meta users, particularly young people, among which it is now more popular than Instagram and Snapchat. The last two cannot work in China, however, the Chinese social network operates on the territory of the United States. At last week’s Code Conference, US business leaders, politicians, and the media expressed their concern over TikTok’s growing popularity, reports Forbes.
Evan Spiegel, the CEO of Snap, believes that the explosive growth of TikTok is due to the billions of investments that the developer of the social network ByteDance can afford.
“The reason why this has been so challenging for companies to respond to in the United States, but also around the world, is the scale of TikTok’s investment,” said Spiegel of Snap. “What nobody had anticipated in the United States was the level of investment that ByteDance made into the U.S. market, and of course in Europe, because it was just unimaginable — no startup could afford to invest billions and billions and billions of dollars in user acquisition like that around the world. It was a totally different strategy than any technology company had expected before because it wasn’t an innovation-led strategy; it was really about subsidizing large-scale user acquisition.”
In the absence of an opportunity to effectively compete with TikTok, on Code Conference there were even calls to ban the Chinese social network.
“TikTok should be banned in every democratic country,” said Mathias Dopfner, CEO of Axel Springer. “I think it’s silly not to do that. We cannot enter China… with Facebook, Google, Amazon, with other platforms — so why would we allow them to play such a dominant role in our free market economy?”
Spiegel believes that TikTok’s recommendation algorithm has become so strong because of its large user base.
“TikTok got this great lead early on by really aggressively expanding, spending a huge amount of money to do that so that people can train the algorithm and ultimately end up with a much more personalized feed that’s harder to get on a new service,” he explained.
Snapchat will compete with TikTok by continuing to focus on connecting with family and friends rather than strangers, an approach that Spiegel says is at the heart of Snap’s success.
The Google CEO also pointed to TikTok as one of his company’s newest and biggest competitors, especially with regard to YouTube. In his interview with Code, Sundar Pichai said that “competition in technology is extremely intense” and that Google felt its rise from TikTok, which came out of seemingly nowhere.
Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar, who is leading tech antitrust legislation targeting Google, Apple, Amazon, and Meta, warned that TikTok could also soon attract the attention of lawmakers, particularly if the US division of the Chinese social network grows to the size of American technology giants.
While potential surveillance by China is a concern, former White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki thinks giving up TikTok isn’t so easy. “When you don’t use these platforms…given how powerful they are and how much they reach people, you are taking yourself off the playing field.”
Even Apple CEO Tim Cook seems to have an opinion on TikTok. During a panel on Wednesday featuring Laurene Powell Jobs and former Apple chief designer Jony Ive on the legacy of Steve Jobs and the evolution of Apple, Cook was asked about iPhone apps that have contributed to today’s political and social divisiveness that Steve Jobs would have hated.
Without naming the company, Cook told host Cari Swisher, “We never build a smartphone for someone to endlessly, mindlessly scroll through their news feed.”