ByteDance states that TikTok's addictive algorithms are not for sale

Wednesday, September 16, 2020 - 2 min read

TikTok's parent company ByteDance will not sell or transfer the algorithm behind the video-sharing app in any acquisitions or divestments, an internal source revealed to SCMP.

In the context of the approaching deadline for TikTok to complete the sale of its US operations (September 15th), the source confirmed ByteDance "can sell cars but not engines".

Accordingly, ByteDance is expected to only sell TikTok application without including the algorithm, or the source code working behind the application to US technology companies. However, TikTok's technology department in the US can develop a new algorithm on its own. ByteDance is said to have informed the US authorities as well as potential buyers of the decision.

Earlier, a representative from the Chinese government also said that ByteDance could sell all of TikTok, except for algorithms. Specifically, the "no algorithm" condition is now the pivotal point for any discussion about the sale or restructure of TikTok, after the Chinese government introduced measures to limit technology exports to give back to America. ByteDance said it will strictly abide by the Chinese government's regulations.

According to a tech-savvy source shared with SCMP, ByteDance uses the same set of source code for TikTok in all countries, but with customizations for each different market.

"In theory, the US team could copy the algorithm, but it will take users longer to get used to this new algorithm. In the context of competition between video sharing applications is growing. More harshly, it will be very difficult to catch up if you take too long for the new algorithm to work properly, "the representative said.

According to many technology experts, the elimination of the algorithm, which is considered the "recipe" for the success of TikTok, will force potential buyers to reconsider the purchase plan and price the application.

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