North Texas Daily

TikTok won’t be the last short video app

TikTok won’t be the last short video app

TikTok won’t be the last short video app
August 02
13:19 2020

Long before our current viral panic, viral entertainment found a place in nearly every facet of internet media. With memes manifesting through all kinds of photos and videos, there have always been a myriad of platforms for people to indulge in viral content, from social media like Facebook and Twitter to content-creation platforms like YouTube. But as is with most things of the internet, these staple platforms came after the rise and fall of many other similar platforms. Before YouTube, sites like ShareYourWorld and StupidVideos were dots in a virtual desert of video hosting. Likewise, the already globally successful Twitter exploded with content after Tumblr staggered itself by essentially ousting its 18+ community. But though sites may shut down or lose traction, viral content always seems to find somewhere else to live, and people are often more than willing to follow wherever it goes.

Such seemed to be the case in 2016, when the massively popular video platform Vine shut down. Vine, a mobile app which allowed users to create looped videos no longer than six seconds, ended its services after seemingly being unable to keep up with their growing user base. This was shocking to many, as the app had a global reputation and even kickstarted some entertainment careers. However, within that same year, a new app would materialize to take up its mantle: TikTok.

Now at the center of mobile content creation, at that moment TikTok seemed all-too-ready to slip into Vine’s place. Having technically existed since 2014 as the app Musical.ly, TikTok essentially used the intuitive editing of Musical.ly while changing its optics as a lip-sync and music app to the general sharing of short videos. And while there are certainly still TikTokers using the platform to the same old Musical.ly ends, its rebranding as a general social media video sharing service has launched TikTok to heights of success not even seen by Vine.

Nowadays, however, enthusiasm surrounding TikTok has turned to wariness as concerns were raised on its handling of user data. Specifically, there is concern surrounding its Chinese parent company ByteDance and how despite having U.S. user data stored in U.S. servers, TikTok may still technically reserve permissions to share information with its parent company. After the Trump administration caught wind of this and threatened to ban apps with Chinese ties, TikTok was quick to protect its interests by sending new lobbyists to Washington and citing its many American executives and interests.

While this raises some concerns on a surface level, meeting TikTok’s ambiguity with an outright ban may not be the most elegant solution to a nuanced issue. For one, many people have created careers as entertainers and influencers on TikTok and many American users took to the platform to express their distress over a potential ban. It may also be worth noting that the optics of the Trump administration clamping down on a Chinese app amidst its salacious trade tensions with the global giant could start important conversations on security needless xenophobic undertones. Furthermore, detailed looks into TikTok’s data harvesting shows that they end up collecting an amount of data equal, if not less than, what Facebook usually gathers from users.

The conversation around TikTok’s continued viability usually ends up boiling down to what individuals are willing to sacrifice: their success and comfort or their absolute security. But what is often not discussed is taking TikTok’s ambiguity as a chance to improve on it in another form. Many of the same users that panicked at the notion of a TikTok ban also updated their profiles to include their other social media outlets like Instagram and YouTube, giving their followers a place to go if the app ended up shutting down. So if career TikTokers are already getting their backup outlets ready as uncertainty continues to mount, it should be asked, is keeping TikTok around even worth it at this point?

Simply put, as long as creatives use the internet to proliferate their work, there will always be a cycle of platforms to adjust to as time goes on. To me, TikTok’s privacy policy is not necessarily a breach that necessitates a ban or escalation of international headbutting, but as an individual I am wary of any policy that gives a company such ambiguous leeway over the background information it chooses to collect. Granted, this also manifests in my obsessive compulsion for VPNs, messaging encryptions and general fear of social media, but I recognize that course of action is not everyone’s cup of tea. Though it may seem similarly challenging, there could be arguable merit to competing with TikTok’s dominance right now by abandoning it or even creating a new platform. If so many exist, why chain yourself to the one mired in this much doubt?

Featured Illustration: Olivia Varnell

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Vincenzo Favarato

Vincenzo Favarato

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