Science & Technology

Douyin: a Chinese version of TikTok

By Javier Garcia

Beijing, Sep 2 (efe-epa).- Before TikTok – the application United States President Donald Trump wants to veto in his country – was a global phenomenon, it was already popular in China by its original name, Douyin, with more than 500 million users.

Like TikTok, the Chinese platform allows you to create and upload short 15-second videos by adding music and endless details but, unlike its international version, Douyin is much more advanced in the integration of electronic commerce.

With a couple of clicks on the application, you can buy a product that appears in a video, book a hotel or take virtual tours of restaurants and shops in a city.

Some “influencers” of the most downloaded application in the world can make up to $20,000 on a good a day with electronic purchases, according to experts from Chinese social networks.

Douyin, which also has microblogs, plans to shortly incorporate “video search,” with which a user will be able to find more videos of a specific person by entering their face and virtually buy clothes and objects that appear in the image.

As with TikTok, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the customer database allow it to refine its algorithms and constantly offer videos that are increasingly tailored to user preferences.

And like its international version, Douyin is designed for entertainment rather than for political proclamations, although Chinese censorship is in charge of vetoing some content and has had some run-ins with ByteDance, its parent company, for “inappropriate” content.

If you search for “Hong Kong protests” in the application, for example, you will not find any video of the protests in the city, only official media posts or images of Beijing supporters, although it is also true that Douyin has few users in the southern Chinese metropolis.

In Douyin one can find everything from cooking recipes -one of its most popular categories-, language classes, dances, weddings and family photos, to people recording themselves doing the most mundane things.

At first, it was only used by the youngest, but it has spread to the general population. According to ByteDance, 40 percent of its users are between the ages of 25 and 30, and many are over 40.

Yuan Ming, a 37-year-old advertising agent, signed a contract with Douyin a year ago whereby he produces an average of four to five commercial videos per month to upload to the application.

His production company charges for each video 70,000 yuan ($10,251) to the advertising company and Douyin receives 40 percent of the revenue.

His company is in the red but he sees it as a long-term investment since the app allows him to have more followers.

“We spend 400,000 yuan a month on employee salaries and rent. There are no benefits yet but we hope to have them in the not too distant future,” he told EFE while filming an ad in the art district of Beijing.

Regarding the planned ban on TikTok in the US if the company does not sell to a US company, Yuan says he cannot understand “Trump’s strange thinking.”

“Banning is not a good thing. TikTok and Douyin are fun, they are not political. In Douyin you can see many different personalities, and none are related to politics. People like it because it is short and fun,” he says.

Zu Tieixong, who has 4 million followers on the Chinese platform, does not agree with the US veto either and considers it “a shame.”

“All applications collect data on the preferences of their users. Everyone does the same. There is no problem with it,” said Zu, who is becoming a professional actor by making videos for the application.

Zu said Douyin is “very interesting” adding that at the beginning it was only for teenagers but that, since a few years ago, “it is becoming very popular for everyone, it is very diverse.”

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