TikTok Owner ByteDance Aspires to Become a Global Leader

TikTok parent ByteDance has announced the establishment of six new divisions to monitor the worldwide dissemination of its short-form video apps. The units include online learning; collaboration tool Lark, (the ByteDance version of Slack); game development arm Nuverse; and B2B division BytePlus, selling white-label versions of  proprietary algorithms to enterprise customers. ByteDance also operates Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok. The change from a flat hierarchy and haphazard business approach is prompting speculation that ByteDance aspires to be known for much more than video sharing.

“It wants to be as irreplaceable to Internet users in the future as Facebook has become now,” Wired writes. The timing is propitious. ByteDance in September announced that TikTok had surpassed 1 billion monthly active users, with Douyin hitting the 600 million daily active user mark in China.

ByteDance “is expected to post healthy revenue growth of 60 percent this year, despite a challenging year of regulatory intervention at home and abroad,” Wired reports. In less than four years, TikTok became the first non-Facebook app to achieve 3 billion downloads worldwide.

“They’re trying to become a westernized Tencent or Alibaba,” Fabian Ouwehand, co-founder of Many, a creator management company, suggested in Wired. Through Many and another company, Uplab, Ouwehand has worked closely with TikTok and Douyin.

According to Wired, Ouwehand believes that since ByteDance’s launch, founder Zhang Yiming “wanted it to be perceived more as a Western company than a Chinese one” and to “go global.” Chinese companies generally define “global” as generating more than 50 percent of revenue outside China. Currently, ByteDance generates the majority of its revenue through Chinese apps including Douyin and news aggregator Toutiao.

But that appears poised to change, as ByteDance seeks to follow the Facebook playbook leveraging its 1 billion monthly users to build revenue and launch more apps and services. Drawing parallels, Wired recounts how Facebook (now Meta), “insinuated itself into all aspects of users’ lives online,” growing its ecosystem by purchasing WhatsApp and Instagram, and becoming a single sign-in source for other services.

ByteDance’s core products are not apps, but technology, says Wired, writing that its secret sauce is “the algorithmic engine that powers all of its apps” and quoting Ouwehand as saying that because “it’s an AI company at the core — they can do so much.”