Home Money Sale or no sale, TikTok will never be the same

Sale or no sale, TikTok will never be the same

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The end of TikTok has begun. As the dust settles after a week of surprisingly quick legislative action by the US Congress, it’s clear that TikTok next year will be very different from the TikTok we use today.

When President Joe Biden signed a $95 billion foreign aid package on Wednesday, he brought to life a nightmare that has dogged TikTok for more than four years. If TikTok’s Chinese owner, ByteDance, refuses to sell his stake in the company, the United States will ban the app nationwide. The signing started the clock, giving TikTok 270 days to find a new owner. (As The Washington Post Cristiano Lima-Fuerte As noted, TikTok’s time will run out the day before Inauguration Day 2025.)

There are a few ways this could all change. A US company or private equity fund could buy TikTok and its powerful recommendation algorithm. Or, a buyer may have to accept only the essence of the platform. without that algorithmic muscle; Information reported On Thursday, ByteDance already began speculating what a sale would be like without the algorithm. Or perhaps no buyer can be found and TikTok fails.

Unless TikTok or a horde of its users somehow win a lawsuit challenging the law signed this week (a lawsuit the company has already said it plans to file), all potential outcomes lead to an app that is dramatically different.

If an American technology company miraculously bought ByteDance’s app and algorithm, it would likely integrate the app into its own products and services. But I doubt we will ever see a “TikTok by Meta.” Meta and other tech giants have come under intense antitrust scrutiny in recent years. If a company with a large social platform swallowed one of its main competitors, that would raise alarm bells at the Department of Justice or the Federal Trade Commission.

Microsoft has suggested that has interest in purchasing TikTok and could be one of the app’s only viable options for a buyer. Otherwise, Microsoft’s largest subsidiary is, well, LinkedIn, and can we even seriously call LinkedIn a TikTok rival?

On the other hand, if, say, a private equity firm like Blackstone were to buy TikTok without its much-envied algorithm, rebuilding the heart of the app could be difficult. A company without a large number of algorithmic assistants on hand would likely not have the expertise to quickly redesign a feed-based social media platform from scratch. If they tried, I doubt the results would be good.

What if there is no new owner? Well, I guess we’re left with YouTube shorts and Instagram reels. TikTok’s popularity in the U.S. forced Google and Meta to invest in vertical video, but those platforms primarily target younger audiences. Generation of the “Skibidi toilet”. They wouldn’t easily fill a TikTok-shaped void on the US internet.

Still, the law passed this week may not stand for much longer. In a statement calling it unconstitutional, TikTok appeared confident that the law could be repealed. “We believe the facts and the law are clearly on our side and we will ultimately prevail,” a TikTok spokesperson said Wednesday. The company used a similar argument last year to win a court order blocking a ban passed in Montana.

Regardless of how this lawsuit plays out, TikTok will be different. The question is what kind of “different” that will be.

Time travel

In December, WIRED contributor Dexter Thomas sat down with TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew during the app’s first music festival in Arizona. In that interview and others like it, Chew states his belief that skepticism about TikTok’s security will diminish as the app gains the trust of lawmakers.

Chew turned out to be wrong. But even after Biden signed the bill calling for divestment this week, TikTok posted a video of Chew addressing its users and promising to continue investing to make the platform better and more secure. I wonder, however, whether that gentle optimism will morph into something more aggressive over the course of the next year as the deadline for the new law approaches.

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