After Twitter, TikTok is the latest tech giant to dive into text

In this photo illustration a TikTok logo is displayed on a smartphone with stock market percentages in the background.
Omar Marques—SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

TikTok may be a frequently copied service, but it’s also not shy about trying to emulate the functionality of others. And given the possible death spiral of X, the platform formerly known as usable, it would frankly be rude of TikTok not to dive into the text game.

“At TikTok, we’re always looking to empower our creators and community with innovative tools that inspire self expression,” the company announced in a blog post about, well, words. Text posts will allow creators to “share their stories, poems, recipes, and other written content.” Yes, they will.

Obviously, TikTok is not going for a straight Twitter clone. Just as Meta has put its own, blandly corporate spin on microblogging—or so I hear; I still can’t access Threads here in Germany—TikTok’s Text is just another medium in which to post stuff to the general public, via TikTok’s algorithm. Because the platform revolves around engagement rather than networks of people, don’t expect to see experts chatting among themselves in public.

But just as Meta was able to use Instagram as a springboard for its Threads launch, TikTok also enters this increasingly busy space from a position of enormous strength. As for whether users will engage with the new feature in the long term, well, that’s an open question—Threads’ engagement has certainly plummeted after an energetic start.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports that TikTok will early next month launch an e-commerce platform in the U.S., somewhat awkwardly called the TikTok Shop Shopping Center—say that 10 times fast. It’s specifically designed as a way for Chinese manufacturers and merchants to sell into the U.S. and, as the Journal notes, this is a direct challenge to Amazon and its “Sold by Amazon” program.

TikTok is also pushing ahead with TikTok Music, a Spotify rival for which the company acquired the trademark around a year ago. The new service launched this month in five countries: Australia, Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, and Singapore.

Olivia Moore, a partner at a16z, tweeted an impressive thread on Sunday, suggesting that TikTok Music may be “the first real challenger to Spotify’s global dominance.” Again, TikTok’s preexisting strength is a big plus here, because all those background songs have meant building relationships with music labels, which must come in handy when adding features such as the streaming of viral user-generated remixes.

“I’m interested to see how a potential TikTok Music U.S. launch goes,” Moore wrote. Given that country’s political antipathy towards TikTok, I’d be interested to see if such a launch happens at all. But make no mistake, TikTok is seizing any opportunity it can to challenge its Western rivals.

Separately, check out my colleague Jeremy Kahn’s cover story, which takes an in-depth look at the uncertainty around Google’s ability to adequately meet the A.I. moment.

As Kahn writes: “It remains far from clear that the business model that drives 80% of Google’s revenues—advertising—is the best fit for chatbots and assistants. OpenAI, for example, has chosen a subscription model for its ChatGPT Plus service, charging users $20 per month. Alphabet has many subscription businesses, from YouTube Premium to various features in its Fitbit wearables. But none are anywhere near as lucrative as advertising.”

More news below.

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David Meyer


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Sending Signal. Wired has a timely piece on Signal, the secure messaging app, and its anarchist founder Moxie Marlinspike (obviously not his birth name, but glorious nonetheless). Although the article praises Signal for the communications privacy it enables, it also warns of trouble ahead for this "temporary autonomous zone that Marlinspike has spent almost a decade building." And which he has just left.

Money is the issue, as always. The nonprofit needs donations, but to get enough, it needs to scale to a degree that it probably can't do safely. But even if it doesn't survive, Signal's influence—and its core protocol—have already extended its mission to more popular rivals such as WhatsApp.

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