Chinese TikTok takes on social networking with “interest-based” social feature going live

Douyin, the Chinese version of the viral short video app TikTok, has stepped up efforts in their expedition into social networking with a new social feature which has finally been activated in the app, according to the Chinese technology media outlet Tech Planet on 16 May.

Known as “Interest Matching”, the new feature is embedded in the ‘Message’ page, allowing users to interact with strangers, anonymously or not, and not just by watching videos, but also through audio and video calls, which is a move believed to be taken by Douyin’s owner ByteDance to challenge its rival Tencent, owner of the popular Chinese instant messaging app WeChat and QQ that have so far dominated the market in China.

It is reported that the matching process is based on the content being viewed, and users who are watching the same video at the same time will be matched. Once matched successfully, the short video will become a chat background and participants can send texts, and emojis and even initiate a video chat by switching on their camera. The new feature, however, can only be used five times per day and users can invite their existing contacts to a chat should a match fail.

These efforts would enable users a wider connection to like-minded people, therefore, strengthening the bond amongst users on the platform while continuing to cater to their interests, which would ultimately benefit the social ecosystem that Douyin is trying to build. “The social function is a natural progression on Douyin,” said Zhang Nan, CEO of ByteDance, “the growing demand for interactive activities on Douyin has been driving the subsequent move on the platform, giving birth to Douyin’s social networking feature.”

In fact, the platform has been doubling down to bolster its social function in the past two years, with several features including co-hosting and video chat as well as an independent video social app Duo Shan allowing direct messages which was introduced in 2019. However, none of the above seems to have made a splash in China’s digital realm. With the new function going live, it remains to be seen if Douyin can pull off the challenge of building up a social community for the platform’s more than 600 million daily active users.  


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