Short-video platform Tik Tok tests longer-form content as rivalry with Tencent-backed apps heats up
- Operated by ByteDance, Tik Tok has enabled the creation of lengthier video clips through an upgrade that is available to Android smartphone users in China
Tik Tok, the popular short-video platform known as Douyin in mainland China, has started testing longer-form content of more than two minutes among domestic users, as it faces increased competition from apps backed by internet giant Tencent Holdings.
The new feature to create longer videos, compared with the typical 15-second clips carried on the platform, has been made available on the app’s latest upgrade for Android smartphone users on the mainland, according to a report from Chinese tech news site 36Kr.com.
A representative of Tik Tok confirmed the local testing on Friday, but did not elaborate on the maximum length of a video created with the latest upgrade.
Before that software update, a number of Tik Tok users with exemplary content have been given the privilege of uploading online video clips of up to 59 seconds long, while most users are confined to the 15-second format.
The tests being conducted by Tik Tok, which is operated by Beijing-based ByteDance, have come amid rising competition from a series of new video apps released this year by Hong Kong-listed Tencent, operator of the ubiquitous mobile messaging, social media, gaming and payments platform WeChat.
Those new video apps, with names such as Weishi and Yoo, were released by Tencent in a bid to catch up with Tik Tok in the booming short video market, in which the “stickiness” of apps with consumers is all-important. Tencent is also the backer of short video and live-streaming app Kuaishou, known as Kwai outside China.
The number of viewers in China of short-form videos, which are clips of less than 20 minutes in length, is projected to reach 353 million – more than the size of the US population – by the end of this year, according to estimates from Chinese consulting firm iiMedia Research. That number would be up from an estimated 242 million last year.
Tik Tok ranked ahead of Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat in number of new US downloads from both the Google Play and Apple App Store in October, putting the two-year-old ByteDance product at the top of the social app market segment, according to app researcher Apptopia.
Tik Tok boosted its user base from 100 million viewers to 130 million after the merger with lip-synching app Musical.ly in August, according to Apptopia. ByteDance acquired Musical.ly last year for about US$800 million.
The rapid international adoption of Tik Tok resulted in the app recording 500 million monthly active users globally in July. The app’s international version became the world’s most downloaded iPhone app in the first quarter of this year, with 45.8 million downloads.
ByteDance has raised a big financial war chest after closing a US$3 billion funding round that has made it the world’s biggest start-up with a valuation of US$75 billion, more than Uber Technologies at US$72 billion.
The new direction for Tik Tok is in step with ByteDance’s initiative to bring long-form content to its Xigua Video service. ByteDance has bought the exclusive digital rights for selected films and television shows, as well as started development of a number of original films and TV programmes.
In August, Xigua announced its plan to invest 4 billion yuan (US$580 million) in the production of variety shows for the platform. Videos on the Xigua platform currently run for less than five minutes.
Additional reporting by Yingzhi Yang