ByteDance is able to build a dynamic global video ecosystem thanks to a novel blend of predictive technology and human censors.
In China, the BAT (Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent) have dominated the internet in many ways, including search, e-commerce, messaging, and gaming. Alibaba may be the only one who has broken through outside of Southeast Asia, but despite their strength, they have not yet made significant inroads beyond China. Yet, ByteDance, a relatively young Chinese digital giant, has just secured massive consumer markets on a worldwide scale with its video platform, TikTok.
TikTok, or DouYin in China, is a social networking app for making and sharing short films that has become extremely popular among today’s youth. The average clip is less than 15 seconds long and contains some form of entertaining music, a skit, lip-sync, dancing, or lighthearted humor. Users frequently take part in “challenges” and make “duets,” or split-screen videos based on already existing content. Around a billion people across the world have downloaded the app so far. This includes significant adoption in India, the United States, Japan, South Korea, Europe, Brazil, and parts of Southeast Asia. After WhatsApp and Messenger, it saw the third-highest quarterly growth in downloads during the first three months of 2019.
TikTok is a pioneer in the field of artificial intelligence for consumer apps. Two kind of artificial intelligence technologies are used. On the consumer side of things first, its algorithms pick up on users’ “likes,” comments, and average time spent watching videos to rapidly discover their preferences. The brief length of the videos allows TikTok’s algorithms to rapidly amass large datasets.
For another, AI aids producers in making viral videos. It streamlines the process of making videos by recommending tracks, hashtags, filters, and other additions depending on what is popular at the moment or what has proved to be successful in the category.
Professionals have issued warnings about developing a dependence on the video-sharing platform TikTok due to this AI recipe’s apparent success. The typical TikTok user spends 52 minutes each day on the app, making it similar to the time spent by Facebook and Instagram users. Throughout the course of that time, kids may see over 200 films, many of which will be advertisements or special offers.
In a nutshell, ByteDance is a dynamic multi-sided platform that blends prediction-based AI with network effects. More and more people are joining the ecosystem to generate these rapidly rising films, and more consumers are signing up to consume the highly personalized stream of material that they find addicting. Marketers and sellers then respond with pertinent advertisements and deals. With the help of AI, gamers are better linked together so that everyone may contribute to a vibrant community. One year after TikTok’s global launch, the firm was valued at an estimated US$75 billion in November 2018, making it the most valuable start-up in the world.
Growing pains: AI-based platforms can be victim of their own success
Nonetheless, there are challenges associated with rapid expansion. Unsuitable material can be made available to consumers and is a source of frustration for those who rely on AI for content consumption and development. Bytedance has been fined for pornographic material and fake adverts in China. As of February of this year, the business had paid a record US$5.7 million fine to satisfy a complaint that it had neglected to acquire parental consent before collecting personal data from users under the age of 13. In its pursuit of development, the firm allegedly “chose to risk children,” as the FTC put it.
In a similar vein, one of India’s highest courts ruled in early April that the app supported pornography and other illegal content, prompting the country to remove it from its app shops. The court also expressed concern that minors using the app would be vulnerable to sexual predators. As the ban was lifted, TikTok immediately implemented new tools to moderate material for the Indian market and removed 6 million videos. Similarly, in early July of 2018, the Indonesian government barred access to the app on the grounds that it included pornographic and blasphemous material.
ByteDance designed a novel approach to fixing these issues. Of course, it uses AI to weed out offensive material. A system that is only 99.99 percent effective still lets thousands of questionable films through. As a result, it employs a novel combination of artificial intelligence (AI) and human censoring (humans watch videos using AI-based tools), which results in a unique approach. The company has built local content monitoring units in other countries, such as Indonesia, where a team of 20 currently filters movies based on local legislation and cultural norms, proving the solution’s worldwide reach.
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The emerging TikTok strategy: Leveraging AI for global platform dominance
The formula used in ByteDance appears to be successful. It encourages people to share short films on its platform. Both the video creation process and the distribution process are aided by AI. When a user joins the platform, they are not prompted to select any particular preferences. Rather of merely giving suggestions, AI systems go right into analyzing user behavior and providing relevant material. They can learn to make very accurate predictions about which movies would pique a user’s attention in a relatively short period of time. TikTok users quickly become more familiar with the app than they are with themselves, especially considering that users’ actual tastes may be different from their claimed ones. An engaged user base is what businesses are looking for when advertising their products.
Yet, offensive material abounds on the internet. The difficulty of keeping tabs on a user-generated content ecosystem increases in proportion to its growth. This is especially true of apps that were made with the express purpose of making the most popular content easily accessible. Artificial intelligence can be used to weed out the vast majority of offensive material, but there will always be gaps in security. Thousands of movies can be affected even if just a small fraction of suspicious material makes it through. TikTok’s strategy takes into account the cultural norms of each country by employing a hybrid of machine learning and human reviewers.
ByteDance is still finding its feet, but it has made incredible strides since releasing TikTok to a worldwide audience in September 2017. Up until now, nobody anticipated that a tech startup could compete with the Big three. ByteDance’s innovative AI-based video-sharing platform has surpassed expectations. Who knows what novel uses it could discover for its AI skills in the future.