TikTok isn’t silly. It’s serious 13 January 2022
“WHEN YOU gaze into TikTok, TikTok gazes into you,” wrote Eugene Wei, a tech blogger, in 2020, explaining the almost clairvoyant nature of TikTok. What the algorithm sees as it gazes into your columnist, a neophyte user, is anyone’s guess: a random feed delivers tips on how to design a ball gown, someone barking at a dog, Rod Stewart with a hankie on his head, and (phew!) Maya Angelou reciting “Phenomenal Woman”.
Schumpeter is quite clear, however, about what he sees in TikTok. It is not just the busty seductiveness of many of the clips that he cannot help noticing. It is the serious money changing hands. And the unmistakable thrill of creative destruction.
About time. Just five years after its birth, TikTok claims to have exceeded 1bn monthly users, despite a ban in India. On January 12th App Annie, a data gatherer, said TikTok caught up with Facebook in 2021 and overtook WhatsApp and Instagram in time users spent on it. Notwithstanding a judge’s decision on January 11th to allow America’s Federal Trade Commission to sue Meta, the social-media trio’s parent company, on antitrust grounds, TikTok’s success appears to mock the argument that Facebook is impregnable.
TikTok derives its magic from its algorithm and the data on which it is trained. Unlike Facebook’s rolling feed, TikTok’s simple, one-video interface…