Bytedance is a technology company based in China that has specialized in using artificial intelligent and mobile data to connect people with a massive amount of information.
The company’s flagship application, Toutiao, provides a personalized ranking of videos, news, and content from millions of users, and thousands of media. The application updates the users depending on their actions such as the things he/she clicks on, comments, video’s paused, time spent reading an article, etc.
Bytedance has collected massive amounts of data plus the other data from social media created by individuals and rich engagement data available in their various products. The data is then fed to various machine learning algorithms which refine the quality of the content feed of each user. It also improves the content experience which consequently promotes further engagement and produces more data that is fed into the algorithms.
The unique and stunning feature of this App is that you don’t need to create a user profile; it works automatically. After opening the App, you will find extensive, and high-quality contented feed that is designed for you.
Ma Weiying, the Bytedance’s AI Research Lab head, said that the flagship App is a new platform for connecting people with new information they want. Toutiao (meaning headline in China) uses AI technologies together with strategies such as user behavior analysis and data mining to link its users with customized advertising campaigns.
Bytedance together with its affiliated companies has been patented and also have won many patents from the China, Europeans and even US patent offices. The patented technologies cover many disciplines that include mobile internet, machine vision, big data analysis, image processing, multimedia interactivity, audio and video processing, data storage and compression, and natural language processing.
THE HISTORY OF BYTEDANCE
Bytedance was formed back in 2012 by Zhang Yiming after he had secured from a group called Susquehanna International Group. The platform studied what users searched for and read, and then referred articles and information based on those habits.
Surprisingly, the more people used it, the more they gained experience, and finally, the longer they stayed in the platform.
The platform gained popularity so quickly in a way that by mid-2014 the daily users had increased stealthily up to an unbelievable number of more than 13 million. With no time, Sequoia stepped in and led to a funding round of a whopping $100 million. According to the last year’s interview, Zhang said that they offer information by news recommendations and not by queries. It was only a video that made Bytedance fish big.
As a fact, China has always been having streaming services. This six-year-old startup realized people love videos. Even the times of desktop era, companies such as YY Inc introduced a model where people could go to sing and dance in the showroom, and they were streamed online to get awards from the fans who were watching.
Later on, outfits such as Kuaishou boosted that penchant for zany showmanship. This is the time Bytedance saw an opportunity but played it much smarter by making their videos shorter approximately 15 seconds, to be precise.
At around September 2016, this news aggregator quietly launched Douyin. This is an App that allows users to capture and edit footage, include filters and then share across platforms like WeChat and Twitter-like Weibo. The format was so appealing to the human’s shorter attention span, and it sprouted so fast that WeChat came to block direct access to the application.
In 2017, this AI-based platform purchased Musical.ly for $800 million. Bytedance noticed a synergy between TikTok and Buzzy teen the US social video App which was created by Chinese co-founders. (they want to combine both of them now.) By July Douyin and TikTok had combined approximately 500 million users. TikTok has music-video creation tools and equipment that simplifies and eases editing through suggesting cuts and also AI-generated special effects to enhance the production value.
On the same year, Toutiao users increased from the reported 70 million up to 120 million daily users. The research that was carried showed that the users spend an average of 74 minutes in the app every day. Last year still, Bytedance spent significant time and money acquiring and substantially investing in apps from all over the world. Their AI can boost the experience and expertise from US based Flipagram and Musical.ly up to Europe’s New Republic. In connection with that, founder Zhang Yiming said that the information from different parts of the world could benefit the users of this news aggregator.
In January 2018, Bytedance managed to make a deal of distributing BuzzFeed content within its apps. Moreover, Toutiao has a push notification system which is geo-location-based known as Missing Person Alert. This is a system that has assisted many people to trace some missing people by an effective technique of disclosing visual details all people using the app from different areas.
In April this year, Bytedance closed a popular joking-sharing App just a few months after taking off. The same time, the company went a step further and suspended Douyin together with its bread-and-butter Toutiao. This is as a result of Beijing’s historic unpredictability during or around censorship. That becomes a potential risk when it comes to collaboration.
This artificial intelligence company previously made a deal with Cheetah Mobile to sell ad space has resulted in most of its ad sales in-house.
THE STORY BEHIND THE FOUNDER AND THE TEAM
Zhang Yiming is only 35 years old. This means that he started trending his idea with 29 years. When he first shopped that idea of the news aggregator app, investors such as Sequoia capital were very skeptical.
The popular question that many investors and many people asked was; how can a young guy who has locally trained software engineer defeat other many new portals ran by behemoth Tencent Holding Ltd and finally retrieve lots of profit even when Google has failed.
Zhang, at his young age, proved them wrong. Today has a giant company that is worth approximately $75 million, a value that is more than Uber Technologies Inc. Zhang went ahead in his interview in 2017 and said that his company is not new, but it is just like other social media platforms. He added that he and his team had not copied any US company either in product or technology.
One of the remarkable things about the guy is that he achieved all his goals without taking a single penny from the Tencent and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, which are referred to as twin sons of China’s internet. This makes it a unique startup that has come of the dwindling cohort of thousands of mobile players without seeking funds or protection from the two legend companies.
When he and his team founded the first AI App, Toutiao, the company gathered a force of millions of users. Zhang identified an untapped opportunity where he saw that people were struggling so much to find information that they wanted and cared about in the available apps. That was partly due to the state’s draconian screening of information.
Zhang felt that he could be even better than incumbents like Baidu which were enjoying high levels of monopoly in the search. What followed is Zhang, and his team founded a company that haunted the existing companies.
There was little TikTok could do about the effects of censorship. Indeed, the company was receiving many negative responses from the authorities due to the failure of filtering content. Consequently, it was forced to clean its services under strict regularity. However, Zhang never wanted to let his vision loose; he held fast. He was sure one day he will deliver only useful information to users through artificial intelligence.
The most exciting thing is that the only American kind of App that could compete with Zhang was a Facebook news feed. Things changed when he fell flat with China’s venture capital stalwarts. Eventually, he secured invested from an organization called Susquehanna International Group. That’s when now Bytedance started to offer the news App in 2012.
TARGET AUDIENCE & USER BASE
Bytedance has been able to succeed due to the appropriate targeting of content to its users. With its short and precise videos, this china’s valuable startup is targeting teens and preteens, who usually make brief videos, especially while lip-syncing to pop music.
However, young people aged 13 and 14 years have been found to be attracted to this short videos in a way they can’t be controlled. It has raised concern to both the authorities and the adults concerned about these children. The Bytedance’s platforms are undeniably exposing these teens to danger and risks.
The primary reason why the young age is being targeted is that they Musicl.ly uploads short videos that are sexually-suggestive of underage preteens and teens. One of the video bloggers said explained that most of the boys and girls are around 14 Years and they are doing hectic sexual shit. He again exclaimed how such clips were allowed in YouTube.
Throughout the YouTube videos in the Bytedance platforms especially Musical.ly show scantily-clad youth who seem to range between 12, 13, 19 and 20 years stimulating sexual acts. They dance suggestively and even lip-syncing to music with sexually explicit lyrics. Moreover, those youths who are featured in the short clips, they are partially clothed. Even though western cultures allow some cladding, this has exceeded. The age of the children in most of the videos is extremely unsettling.
Toutiau, a Beijing-based news and information content platform, serves more than 120 million daily users who are active. Research shows that the uses spend an average of 74 minutes in the app. On the other side, Musical.ly has more than 215 millions users. The higher number is due to the short sexual videos they upload in their platform. The users are not only based in China, but many of the people from other countries are also using them. They are collaborating with various companies to be selling its content to people all over the world.
Bytedance is the next big thing that will be happening in 2019 and the near future. Probably more prominent than the popular Uber. That will be surprising because that’s something that has never been witnessed before. That makes us believe that things change faster, especially the electronic world.
As Softbank wants to fund Bytedance, that means that this startup will be more potent than Uber. Being a news aggregator company and it’s the pioneer AI company that generates viral apps led by a smarter CEO the Mark Zuckerberg.
They have fantastic apps that are breathtaking, and yet they are just a startup. Imagine in the next few years. It will be epic. You can’t compare Facebook with Bytedance because Facebook had to purchase applications to innovate and scale. Indeed, Bytedance generates new apps and scales so fast without depending more on advertising.
Bytedance has grown very fast with TikTok’s explosive growth unlike Alibaba, Tencent, and Baidu who have faced trade wars in a way they can pull $130 billion in their stocks to compensate. Zhang and his team have created an AI-powered App that cuts across Facebook and Google. For sure, Facebook and Tencent have significant things they should learn from Bytedance.