TikTok’s Algorithm and AI Tech Are Now Up for Sale


Illustration for article titled TikTok's Algorithm and AI Tech Are Now up for Sale

Photo: Drew Angerer (Getty Images)

Now anyone can tap into the secret sauce behind ByteDance’s globally successful TikTok app—for a price. The China-based company quietly launched a new BytePlus division back in June focused on selling TikTok’s artificial intelligence technology, including the popular recommendation algorithm behind its ForYou feed, to businesses worldwide, the Financial Times reported Sunday.

Some of the features up for sale include the short-form video app’s computer vision tech, real-time video effects, automated translation of text and speech functions, and tools for data analysis and management, among others, the Times reports. Customers can then tailor this tech to fit the needs of their apps and consumer base.

BytePlus already has a few buyers, according to its website. The American fashion app Goat is listed among its early customers, as are the Singapore-based travel booking site WeGo and Indonesian online shopping start-up Chilibeli.

TikTok’s recommendation algorithm has been a key driver in its success, so it makes sense that ByteDance would try to capitalize on that. As TikTok explained in a blog post last year, the app determines which videos to recommend on your feed based on user metadata and how you interact on the platform, such as which videos you like, share, or comment on, what hashtags or captions you include on your posts, what type of device you’re using or your location settings, etc.

This creates a tailor-made experience that can differ wildly from user to user. This feed, called the ForYouPage or FYP, has practically become a meme within itself. Countless stories have gone viral of users claiming TikTok’s algorithm knew their sexuality or medical diagnoses before they did, a newfound self-discovery they only recognized after the app pointed them to specific communities of people that shared their experiences. It really can be uncannily perceptive; thanks to TikTok, I’m starting to suspect my whole ass personality is actually just a bunch of trauma responses and ADHD symptoms disguised in a trench coat.

Nonetheless, BytePlus is entering an already crowded marketplace. As the Times notes, its suite of tools will be up against AI services from tech giants such as Amazon Web Services, Google, IBM, and Microsoft, along with other China-based competitors like Alibaba, Baidu, and Tencent. Based on online records, BytePlus is looking to register trademarks in the U.S., although it’s unclear if the company has established a stateside presence yet, according to the outlet.



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