with @eugenewei @smc90 In this special "2x" episodes of 16 Minutes, we cover the algorithm that powers TikTok, the short video platform that grabbed massive marketshare in cultures and markets never experienced firsthand by the engineers and designers in China, beating out other apps in the U.S. But with talk of U.S. ownership/partnership for TikTok, what happens if the algorithm isn't included? And what can we learn from the "creativity network effects" flywheel of TikTok; about "algorithm friendly" product design; and more broadly, for the future of video.
In one of our special "2x" episodes of 16 Minutes (32ish minutes;) -- our show where we quickly cover the headlines and tech trends, offering analysis, frameworks, explainers, and more -- we cover the algorithm that powers TikTok, the short video-sharing platform that grabbed massive marketshare in cultures and markets never experienced firsthand by the engineers and designers in China, beating out other apps in the United States. Now, with talk of U.S. ownership/partnership for TikTok, what happens if the algorithm isn't included in the deal? And what can we learn from the "creativity network effects" flywheel of TikTok; for "algorithm friendly" product design; and more broadly, about the future of video?
The news: Given the U.S. government calling for TikTok's business to be sold to U.S. owners last month, and several bidders coming in since, the latest news was that Oracle Corporation and Bytedance are hammering out an agreement for the former to be TikTok's "trusted tech partner" in the U.S. This could include (as reported by Axios) their exclusive ability to oversee all tech operations for TikTok in the U.S., including access and control of U.S. user data; ability to review source code and all updates to software for security vulnerabilities; and separate boards and entities for ensuring compliance with CFIUS/ U.S. policies (and for allowing ownership stakes for Oracle, with Walmart). The deal hasn't been approved yet [as of September 18, 2020].
The episode: But since this show is focused on where we are on the long arc of innovation, and what's hype/ what's real when it comes to tech trends & the news, where does the source code (and more specifically, the "For You Page" algorithm) -- which may or may not be included in the deal due to China's revised export controls -- come in? Yet it's not just about if TikTok is really TikTok without it, or whether "the algorithm" and machine learning training data can be recreated... the real question is: How does the "creativity network effects" flywheel work between video creation and distribution -- from origination to mutation to dissemination? It boils down to the idea of "algorithm friendly design", observes Eugene Wei, who has written a series of deep dives on TikTok, and formerly led product at Hulu, Flipboard, and video at Oculus, among other things. So what does TikTok, regardless of deal outcome, suggest about the future of product development, and more broadly, the future of video? All this and more in this 2x+ long explainer episode of 16 Minutes.
image: Eliza Petersen
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