Your tech news digest, by way of the DGiT Daily tech newsletter, for Friday, May 22.

1. TikTok deep dive

I had the realization yesterday that we all have to think about TikTok, now.

  • I might be a little late to this! Loads of people and companies have been exploring the app and surprised at just how much traction you can get with it. (I think even Android Authority was surprised when a simple video posted to TikTok racked up 9.9 million views seemingly out of nowhere.)
  • That’s despite the concerns around TikTok privacy and data usage: class-action lawsuits and National Security reviews haven’t impacted users jumping on in droves.
  • What could once be dismissed as for teenagers, or those not aware of the possible data issues, has become part of the wider social world.
  • Some are going further: “In less than four years, TikTok has become the most culturally significant product in the world,” writes Turner Novak, who posted a superb deep dive into TikTok and ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok which recently hired a Disney exec (Quartz).

Novak’s deep dive, The Rise of TikTok and Understanding Its Parent Company, ByteDance on his Substack is basically required reading. I’ve pulled out just a few notes and highlights below, but the whole thing will set you straight.

  • TikTok has become the best way to create and consume short videos on mobile. It rode the wave of AirPods and audio memes to over 1 billion DAU’s (Daily Active Users), and is likely worth ~$200 billion. This would make it not only the world’s most valuable “startup” but one of the world’s most valuable companies, period.
  • The money involved is enormous: TikTok reportedly “spent $3M/day on user acquisition and PR throughout 2018 and 2019”, and while initial churn rates were enormous, that flattened into between 28-40% retention.
  • It’s eating into Instagram, which hasn’t shown growth in its reach in the past year and is seeing declining downloads. (Novak says Facebook investors will catch on eventually.)

  • But what’s next is just as interesting. TikTok is already heading into ecommerce integration in videos, and will open up its own self-serve ad manager.
  • Novak believes the next step for ByteDance is leveraging TikTok to launch new products, and that’s happening already.
  • Whereas some companies just build their own platform, ByteDance is hiring too fast, and we’re already seeing longer-form video products emerge in China, and more.
  • Just as TikTok memes drive the music charts, there’s an exploration of ByteDance’s own music streaming app Resso, launched in India, Indonesia, and Brazil already, which “marries the UI’s of TikTok and Spotify with the spirit of YouTube”.
  • Add in gaming (ByteDance owns multiple gaming companies), education, consumer finance, messaging, enterprise software, cloud hosting…
  • Conclusion? “In less than four years, TikTok became the most culturally significant product in the world. It rode the tailwinds of AirPods and memes to reach over 1 billion DAU’s and is now the best way to create and consume video content on mobile. Everyone should be watching to see what they do next,” writes Novak.
  • Do check out that deep dive and the wider considerations for pop culture, media, advertising, social, and growth. And consider that Novak might be the most positive analyst in the game on TikTok… how will Facebook/Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and co., react?

2. Lenovo Chromebook Duet review: “almost nothing else competes on the value here” (Android Authority).


3. Vivo has explained the gimbal-tech we talked about earlier in the week, with loads of hardware insight, including the refined OIS-like setup, with up to three degrees movement on both the X- and Y-axis tilt, which is about three times more than OIS. That makes for a thick, big module or housing, a real technical challenge (Android Authority).


4. AT&T might finally ditch deceptive 5G E branding (Android Authority).


5. Memorial Day sales roundup: The best tech on sale this weekend (Android Authority).


6. Apple TV Plus is still looking for its big win: Interest in shows on Apple’s service has mostly trended down, while the real test will be when $0 annual trials turn into $4.99 monthly fees (The Verge).


7. Gizmodo sums up the increasingly weird Apple Glasses leaks, asking: “Are you shitting me?” The latest weirdness is that Apple will supposedly be making a special edition pair that will look like Steve Jobs’ glasses, which is leading to disagreements between Apple reporters, with words like “complete fiction” being used (Gizmodo).


8. This should instantly become the industry standard: Netflix is preparing to cancel dormant subscriptions, if accounts haven’t been used in more than a year: “At Netflix, the last thing we want is people paying for something they’re not using.” (Netflix.com).


9. Get Civilization VI, a $60 game, free from Epic, right now (CNET).


10. If you melt a magnet, what happens to the magnetism? Does the liquid metal retain the magnetism or does it go away? (r/askscience).


11. Pac-Man!!!!

It’s Pac-Man’s 40th birthday! As part of the celebrations, Bandai Namco and Amazon just announced Pac-Man Live Studio, a just-announced game with multiplayer support for endless runs, Mario Maker-style custom maps and uploads, and somehow, all on Twitch.

  • It’s sadly announced without a firm release date, just now, but it is coming in June.
  • Until then, you can play Pac-Man with a recent Google Doodle (google.com), just search Pac-Man!

Bonus: Pac-Man, the Japanese game that took over the world, turns 40 (Kotaku).

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