If one short video app has a feature, everyone else has to have it. That’s the rule. The latest episode in this trend is brought to us by YouTube, which introduced a feature for creators to reply to comments on their videos with Shorts.
“Invite your audience to connect with you via this new feature by answering their questions in your Shorts, taking content requests, reacting to comments in your videos, and whatever else you come up with,” the company said in a post.
This could be pretty handy for creators who might want to respond to some fans’ comments on a video as a follow-up. Creating a short video to do so is easier and more informal than creating a full video.
Here’s how it works:
If you’re a creator, head to your video or a Short and open the comment section.
Tap reply on the comment you want to respond to.
Tap on the ‘Create a Short’ button to create a short video featuring that comment.
The feature is currently rolling out to all creators on iOS with YouTube working on bringing it to Android soon. The company is also testing a function to notify fans if a creator features their comment in a Short.
Earlier this year, YouTube said 1.5 billion logged-in users are watching YouTube Shorts every month. “Features like “reply to a comment with a Short” will give creators more prompts to make more content. This way, fans will also get more content to consume and it will potentially increase YouTube’s overall viewership.”
TikTok is fueling disinformation and political tension in Kenya ahead of its August general elections, new research by Mozilla Foundation says.
Mozilla made the conclusion after reviewing 130 highly-watched videos sharing content filled with hate speech, incitement and political disinformation.This was in contradiction of TikTok’s policy against hate speech, and sharing of discriminatory, inciteful, and synthetic content.
While the short videos, shared by 33 accounts, were in breach of TikTok’s guidelines and policies, Mozilla Tech and Society Fellow Odanga Madung said the videos were not purged from the short video platform, which is among the most popular social sites in the East African country.
Madung interviewed several TikTok content moderators and concluded that their unfamiliarity with the political context in the country may be one of the greatest contributors to why some of the inflammatory posts were not taken down, leading to the spread of disinformation on the social app.
Madung reviewed content shared through “popular political hashtags, names of political candidates, key locations, political parties, and ethnic communities” earlier this year. The videos included coded language and derogatory terms (like madoadoa), which are flagged as hate speech in the country and banned by Kenyan National Cohesion and Integration Commission, the body that is mandated to reduce inter-ethnic conflict.
“Kenya’s democracy carries a tainted past of post-election violence. Now, political disinformation on TikTok – in violation of the platform’s own policies – is stirring up this highly volatile political landscape. Meanwhile, TikTok has shown it is incapable of addressing this problem,” said Madung.
The study also found that some of the videos garnered views that were more than the following of the reviewed accounts, suggesting the involvement of algorithmic amplification.
“Many of the videos are getting outsized viewership in comparison to their followership and according to researchers, this suggests that the content may be gaining amplification from TikTok’s For You Page algorithm,” the study said.
The content moderators interviewed include TikTok whistleblower, Gadear Ayed, who said it was also common for people moderating the platform to be asked to review content that was in context and languages that they didn’t understand.
“Sometimes the people moderating the platform don’t know who the entities in the videos are, and, therefore, the videos can be left to spread due to lack of knowledge of context. It’s common to find moderators being asked to moderate videos that were in languages and contexts that were different from what they understood,” said Ayed.
TikTok joins Twitter, WhatsApp and Facebook, other social sites that have been blamed in the past for fueling disinformation and propaganda and adversely impacting election outcomes.
TikTok attracts a younger demographic, which the study says is easily influenced and can be swayed by the content they consume on the social app.
“TikTok’s demographic is much younger and it worries me because they don’t have the levels of political maturity or a clear value base that may allow them to sift through such information,” Irungu Houghton, the executive director at Amnesty international, was quoted as saying in the Mozilla report.
“TikTok needs to recognize that the demographic they are dealing with is a formative generation and therefore the impacts of such campaigns are not things that we’re likely to see immediately — but we may see its effects in decades to come.”
Reddit announced that it has acquired short video platform Dubsmash. The deal’s terms were undisclosed. Dubsmash will retain its own platform and brand, and Reddit will integrate its video creation tools. Its co-founders, Suchit Dash, Jonas Drüppel and Tim Specht, will join Reddit.
According to Crunchbase data, the app has raised $20.2 million from investors including Lowercase Capital, Index Ventures, Eniac Ventures, Heartcore Capital and Sunstone Life.
Dubsmash is now one of TikTok’s biggest rivals, but struggled for several years after a brief stint of popularity in 2015 during its first incarnation as a lip-sync video app. In 2017 it began transforming itself into a social platform and moved its headquarters from Berlin to Brooklyn. By the beginning of this year, Dubsmash’s share of the United States’ short-form video market was second only to TikTok when counted by app installs, and it reportedly held acquisition talks with Facebook and Snap.
Credit for much of Dubsmash’s success goes to Black and Latinx users. While many of TikTok’s highest-profile stars are white, Dubsmash is known for its large communities of Black and Latinx content creators. The polarization between the two apps began to gain more attention earlier this year, when the New York Times published a piece about how dance moves by Black Dubsmash stars are frequently appropriated without credit by TikTok influencers, which means their creators miss out on opportunities like larger followings, brand deals and industry connections.
Reddit has its own issues with racism, and has been criticized for not doing enough to stop hate speech or giving moderators of subreddits targeted by racist trolls enough support.
Last year, founder and former chief executive officer Alexis Ohanian called for his position on Reddit’s board to be filled with a Black candidate when he stepped down, which current CEO Steve Huffman said the company would honor as part of a larger effort to address hate speech on the platform announced during anti-racism demonstrations after the killing of George Floyd by a police officer. Ohanian’s position was filled by Y Combinator CEO Michael Seibel.
In its announcement today, Reddit linked its acquisition of Dubsmash to its inclusion efforts, acknowledging that the app’s “communities are driven by young, diverse creators—about 25 percent of all Black teens in the U.S. are on Dubsmash, and females represent 70 percent of users.”
It also said the integration of Dubsmash’s video creation tools will enable Reddit’s users to “express themselves in original and authentic ways that are endemic to our communities.”
Since launching native videos in 2017, Reddit said usage has increased sharply, growing 2X in 2020 alone. Much of Reddit’s content is still text-based, however, with video, gifs and images often shared from other sources, so Dubsmash’s integration can help Reddit build out its own video platform.
Rumors have been floating for months that ByteDance is going public with TikTok and Douyin separately. Just last night, Bloomberg reported that ByteDance is seeking a pre-IPO round of $2 billion at a staggering valuation of $180 billion.
Before any of that materializes, ByteDance Chinese rival Kuaishou has moved ahead to file for an initial public offering in Hong Kong Thursday night, and its prospectus is shedding light on a race where both growth and costs are astronomical.
Launched by a former Google engineer in 2011 to share GIFs, Kuaishou has evolved into a nemesis of Douyin, TikTok’s sister in China. 21.5% owned by Tencent, the company reported a net loss of 6.8 billion yuan ($1 billion) in the first six months of 2020 while operating loss stood at 7.57 billion yuan. In contrast, it logged an operating profit of 1.1 billion yuan in the same period just last year.
The increase was in part a result of the company’s aggressive promotion of its lite version Kuaishou Express, which tailors to China’s less tech-savvy demographics. Unlike ByteDance, Kuaishou has had limited success overseas and relies on continuous domestic growth.
Its selling and marketing expenses skyrocketed 354.1% from 3 billion yuan in H1 2019 to 13.7 billion yuan in H1 this year. But the splurge seemed to have paid off: the lite app gained 100 million DAUs within a year. It’s a game of pay-to-play.
The main app Kuaishou itself, as of June, reached 302 million daily users, who spent over 85 minutes on the app per day engrossed in watching clips and live sessions. For comparison, Douyin crossed 400 million DAUs in January.
Though known as a “short-video app”, Kuaishou earns most of its revenue — 68.5% in H1 — from live streaming, during which audiences can send hosts virtual items priced anywhere between 1 and 2,000 yuan. Other monetization avenues include advertising, which accounted for 28% of its revenues, as well as less significant sources like e-commerce and games.
Douyin, on the other hand, pulled in about 67% of its revenues from advertising last year, a source told TechCrunch earlier, while live-streaming made up 17%.
The revenue makeup reflects the core use case of the apps. Kuaishou often prides itself on user engagement; indeed, over a quarter of its 776 million monthly users are creators themselves. That makes Kuaishou more of a social app where the viewers and creators interact frequently through means like live streaming and gifting.
Douyin, with algorithms that favor premium content, acts more like a form of media as some Chinese venture capitalists observed, making it a destination for showing ads.
In terms of revenue size, Kuaishou generated 39.1 billion yuan last year, about one-third of what ByteDance made last year. But one should keep in mind that ByteDance has another cash cow: its news and information aggregator, Jinri Toutiao.
Twitter shut down Dom Hoffman’s app Vine, giving away the short-form video goldmine to China’s TikTok. Now a year and half since Hoffman announced he’d reimagine the app as V2 then scrapped that name, his follow-up to Vine called Byte has finally sent out the first 100 invites to its closed beta. Byte will let users record or upload short, looped vertical videos to what’s currently a reverse-chronological feed.
the byte beta we’ve been running with friends and family *feels* exactly like the vine friends and family beta, down to the weird but appealing randomness of the videos. that’ll change as we expand, but it’s a pretty good sign pic.twitter.com/rBbQrNtTJ7
It will be a long uphill climb for Byte given TikTok’s massive popularity. But if it differentiates by focusing less on lip syncing and teen non-sense so it’s less alienating to an older audience, there might be room for a homegrown competitor in short-form video entertainment.
Hoffman tells TechCrunch that he’s emboldened by the off-the-cuff nature of the beta community, which he believes proves the app is compelling even before lots of creative and funny video makers join. He says his top priority is doing right by creators so they’ll be lined up to give Byte a shot when it officially launches even if they could get more views elsewhere.
For now, Hoffman plans to keep running beta tests, adding and subtracting features for a trial by fire to see what works and what’s unnecessary. The current version is just camera recordings with no uploads, and just a feed with Likes and comments but no account following. Upcoming iterations from his seven-person team will test video uploads and profiles.
One reassuring point is that Hoffman is well aware that TikTok’s epic rise has changed the landscape. He admits that Byte can’t win with the exact same playbook Vine did when it faced an open field, and it must bring something unique. Hoffman tells me he’s a big fan of TikTok, and sees it as one evolutionary step past Vine, but not in the same direction as his new app
Does the world need Vine back if TikTok already has over 500 million active users? We’ll soon find out of Hoffman can take a Byte of that market.
Elderly couple having a moment on Douyin / Credit: Douyin ID @淘气陈奶奶
It also helps that smartphone data became cheaper and internet penetration kept growing in recent years — China now has 800 million smartphone users, according to government data. In 2013, just under 40 percent of China’s online population streamed videos on their phones, according to database CBNData. In 2017, that ratio surged to 80 percent.
And TikTok, called Douyin in China, is spearheading the short-video game.
In recent years, few mobile apps in China have captured as many stares as WeChat, Tencent’s messaging app that’s evolved into a one-stop platform allowing people to shop, order cabs, book hotels, and complete other daily tasks.
Then short video apps came along, eating people’s eyeball time away. Apps like TikTok do not compete directly with WeChat as they serve different purposes, but data suggests that use of instant messaging services has waned amid the fledgling video scene.
This year WeChat and its peers occupied 30.5 percent of people’s online time, a 3.6 percent drop year-over-year per the QuestMobile report.
It comes as no surprise that Tencent is fretting over the clip craze and in particular, ByteDance’s rise. In May, Tencent’s usually low-profile boss Pony Ma got in a rare online spat with ByteDance founder and CEO Zhang Yiming over plagiarism and WeChat blocking TikTok content.
Typical miming and finger dancing performed by teens / Credit: Douyin ID @李雨霏2007
Elsewhere, Tencent took action. Since April, the tech giant has rolled out a number of TikTok rivals but so far none has gotten close to the latter’s lion’s share: 500 million monthly active users worldwide. That’s excluding the 100 million total users on Musical.ly, which ByteDance acquired in late 2017 and merged into TikTok this August.
Tencent’s got other backup plans, though. It owns shares in TikTok’s China archrival Kuaishou, which had a 22.7 percent penetration rate in September according to data service provider Jiguang. That’s however, dwarfed by TikTok’s 33.8 percent, which means the app was installed on over a third of all mobile devices monitored by Jiguang. Plus, ByteDance’s other short-video apps for different niches, Huoshan and Xigua, are also faring well, commanding 13.1 percent and 12.6 percent, respectively.
Alibaba: not quite an ally
Until recently, ByteDance appeared to be making nice with China’s other internet giant — Alibaba. The companies kicked off a partnership in March that saw TikTok using Alibaba’s online marketplace Taobao to process ecommerce transactions on its app. Authorized TikTok users, usually those with a big following, can link videos to their Taobao shops. This money-making setup allows TikTok to lure more quality content creators. Alibaba, on the other hand, gets traffic from the fledgling social media app that could absorb some of the loss from WeChat blocking its ecommerce apps.
Things can go south anytime, however, as ByteDance makes forays into Alibaba’s territories. The startup recently introduced an ecommerce platform and entered the business of long-form video streaming, an area where Alibaba, Tencent, and Baidu’s iQIYI dominate.
Life hacks are popular, too: guy sharing his gardening tips / Credit: Douyin ID @速效三元化合肥
ByteDance seems set to grow independently. Unlike many of China’s promising startups, six-year-old ByteDance hasn’t accepted financing from any of the tech trio of Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent — known as the BAT such is their dominance in China’s consumer technology.
ByteDance’s moves into new space may also signal the firm’s urge to explore additional monetization channels besides advertising on feeds. It lifted its revenue target to $7.2 billion for 2018, well above the $2.5 billion it earned last year, according to Bloomberg.
At home and afar
Despite the boom, China’s short-video market faces increasing regulatory headwinds. In recent months, authorities have been clamping down on Kuaishou, ByteDance’s video apps, and smaller players on account of eradicating content that’s deemed illegal or inappropriate.
Violation could result in app store bans and those that underwent such severe punishment like Miaopai, which is backed by China’s Twitter equivalent Weibo, suffered from a tumble in app installs.
Sometimes Douyin does get serious – a Beijing TV channel has its own account and it covers news here / Credit: Douyin ID @BTV新闻
ByteDance didn’t get a ban – yet, but it came under fire for its AI-driven recommendation algorithms. It’s something the startup prides itself on but has irritated media watchdogs who reprimanded TikTok for showing users “unacceptable” content, such as videos depicting adolescent pregnancies. ByteDance’s popular news aggregator Jinri Toutiao, or “today’s headlines,” received similar criticisms for giving its 120 million daily users “fluff”.
In response, ByteDance added thousands of censors to screen content on top of AI-driven recommendation across its apps.
ByteDance’s expanding territory through TikTok goes well beyond China. This year, the short-video platform has been climbing app store rankings around the world, an ascend accelerated by its incorporation of Musical.ly. Now it’s not just Tencent that’s taking note; Facebook is also building a TikTok clone, TechCrunch reported recently.