Timeline: Whose TikTok is it anyway?

Timeline: Whose TikTok is it anyway?
Photo Credit: Pixabay
15 Sep, 2020

When India banned TikTok back in June this year, it was just the beginning of a global backlash against the ultra popular short video sharing app. At the core of the backlash was TikTok’s ownership. In the aftermath of the Covid-19 outbreak, which originated in China, Bytedance, TikTok’s Beijing headquartered parent, has found itself under intense scrutiny from governments citing concerns over national security.

Following the ban on a host of Chinese origin apps, including TikTok, by the Indian government, the US government also mulled a similar move. Subsequently, the Donald Trump led government set aside a complete ban and instead gave TikTok an ultimatum to find a local buyer for its US operations. Since then, TikTok has found several suitors from technology firms Microsoft Corp and Oracle to retailer Walmart.

On Monday, Redwood City, California headquartered enterprise software firm Oracle said it would serve as the ‘trusted technology provider’ in the US market for TikTok. In a statement, the Larry Ellison led firm said, “Oracle confirms Secretary Mnuchin's statement that it is part of the proposal submitted by ByteDance to the Treasury Department over the weekend in which Oracle will serve as the trusted technology provider.” The proposed partnership still has to pass muster with the Trump administration.

While the Oracle partnership may ease some of TikTok’s problems in the US, its ownership is likely to continue to pose problems for the app around the world for a while.

Here’s a rundown of what’s happened so far.

Timeline

19 September, 2020

Oracle, Walmart to own 20% stake in TikTok Global

While Oracle announced that it would pick up a 12.5% stake in TikTok Global, Flipkart owner Walmart is expected to buy a 7.5% stake as part of a deal to enable the ByteDance owned short video app to remain operational in the US.

"While there is still work to do on final agreements, we have tentatively agreed to purchase 7.5% of TikTok Global as well as enter into commercial agreements to provide our ecommerce, fulfillment, payments and other omnichannel services to TikTok Global," Walmart said in a statement.

TikTok Global is a new company that the Chinese firm is setting up that will be responsible for providing all TikTok services to users in United States and most of the users in the rest of the world. Walmart CEO Doug McMillon will serve as one of five board members of the newly created company.

19 September, 2020

Oracle to pick up 12.5% stake in TikTok Global

Larry Ellison led Oracle Corporation announced today that it would become TikTok's secure cloud technology provider and pick up a 12.5% stake in TikTok Global. “TikTok picked Oracle’s new Generation 2 Cloud infrastructure because it’s much faster, more reliable, and more secure than the first generation technology currently offered by all the other major cloud providers,” Oracle chief technology officer Larry Ellison said in a statement.

The decision by TikTok was heavily influenced by Zoom’s recent success in moving a large portion of its video conferencing capacity to the Oracle Public Cloud, the statement said.

“As a part of this agreement, TikTok will run on the Oracle Cloud and Oracle will become a minority investor in TikTok Global,” said Oracle CEO Safra Catz. “Oracle will quickly deploy, rapidly scale, and operate  TikTok systems in the Oracle Cloud. We are a hundred percent confident in our ability to deliver a highly secure environment to TikTok and ensure data privacy to TikTok’s American users, and users throughout the world. This greatly improved security and guaranteed privacy will enable the continued rapid growth of the TikTok user community to benefit all stakeholders.”

19 September, 2020

Trump supports Oracle deal of TikTok with ‘blessing'

US President Donald Trump told reporters that he would approve a Oracle-TikTok partnership in principle to let the app operate in the country, according to multiple media reports -- even as it appeared to conflict with his earlier order for ByteDance to divest TikTok, Reuters reported. TikTok interim CEO Vanessa Pappas shared a video message right after, expressing approval of the US’ support on TikTok’s presence in the country.

19 September, 2020

Already committed to govt oversight of US data security: TikTok

TikTok said it has already committed to the US government oversight of data security in the country, and that it was “disappointed” by the Trump administration’s decision to ban it from US app stores from Sunday, according to multiple media reports. TikTok said that it had agreed to steps such as third-party audits, verification of code security, and the US government oversight of US data security in its proposal to the government, the reports added. “An American technology provider would be responsible for maintaining and operating the TikTok network in the US, which would include all services and data serving US consumers,” TikTok said in the statement.

18 September, 2020

TikTok files complaint against US govt to try to block ban

US President Donald Trump told reporters that he would approve a Oracle-TikTok partnership in principle to let the app operate in the country, according to multiple media reports -- even as it appeared to conflict with his earlier order for ByteDance to divest TikTok, Reuters reported. TikTok interim CEO Vanessa Pappas shared a video message right after, expressing approval of the US’ support on TikTok’s presence in the country.

18 September, 2020

Trump to block US downloads of TikTok, WeChat on Sunday

The Trump administration will ban TikTok and Tencent’s WeChat from US app stores starting Sunday night, according to a Reuters report. The Friday announcement, the report said, will affect only new downloads and updates of the apps. WeChat faces more severe restrictions from Sunday, compared to TikTok that will see little change until November 12 when a ban on some technical transactions will kick in, the report added. November 12 is when, TikTok said, an effective ban would occur.

17 September, 2020

ByteDance proposes TikTok IPO in US deal

ByteDance has planned and agreed to a US initial public offering of TikTok Global as another effort to quell the Trump administration’s national security concerns with the video-sharing app, according to multiple media reports citing sources. An IPO in the US and not in China or Hong Kong was one of several commitments made by ByteDance owner to avert the Sunday ban on the video-sharing app in the US, a Financial Times report said. A Reuters report, earlier in the day, added that Oracle and potentially Walmart would hold at least a 60% stake in TikTok’s US operations.

17 September, 2020

ByteDance says China will have to approve its TikTok-Oracle deal too

ByteDance said that Chinese authorities will need to sign off on its proposed deal with Oracle for its TikTok app, even as the US administration is yet to approve the proposal, according to multiple media reports.

16 September, 2020

Trump does not 'like' deal

US President Donald Trump told reporters that he was not ready to approve a proposal from ByteDance that would make Oracle a technology provider for TikTok, according to several media reports. ByteDance submitted a proposal to the Treasury Department over the weekend and is awaiting a response. “Conceptually, I can tell you I don’t like that," Trump said when asked about a reported proposal that Bytedance would retain a majority of TikTok’s assets, with Oracle acquiring a minority stake.

16 September, 2020

Oracle to review TikTok source code to watch for Chinese access

ByteDance will allow Oracle to review TikTok’s source code and software to ensure there are no backdoors that allow the Chinese government or other entities to access the data, according to multiple reports citing sources. The provision is one of a number offered to the US government by ByteDance in its effort to verify the security of TikTok, a Wall Street Journal report added.

16 September, 2020

TikTok to become standalone US company

ByteDance will place TikTok's global business in a new US-headquartered company with Oracle investing as a minority shareholder, the Financial Times reported, citing sources. Oracle will have a stake in the whole of TikTok and not just the US operations, while ByteDance will be the majority shareholder of the new entity, the report said, adding that other US investors that potentially include Walmart would own a minority stake.

15 September, 2020

Tencent said to join rivals Alibaba, ByteDance in picking Singapore as Asia hub after India, US bans

Tencent Holdings has picked Singapore as its beachhead for Asia, joining rivals Alibaba Group Holding and ByteDance in the race to build up their presence closer to home after setbacks in the US and India, according to a Bloomberg report. Management at China’s largest social media and gaming company had been discussing Singapore as a potential regional hub and geopolitical tensions accelerated its plans, the report said citing sources.

14 September, 2020

Oracle to be technology partner for TikTok in the US

Oracle confirmed US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin's statement that it is part of the proposal submitted by TikTok parent ByteDance to the Treasury Department, made over the weekend, in which Oracle will serve as the “trusted technology provider.” for TikTok in the US.

14 September, 2020

YouTube launches ‘Shorts’ in India

Google-owned YouTube, which currently has about two billion subscribers worldwide, has picked India to launch its in-app short video feature. Called Shorts, the feature will help YouTube, which has some 265 million active users in India, tap into the local market.

13 September, 2020

Walmart is still interested in TikTok

US retail giant Walmart, which also owns Bengaluru based ecommerce player Flipkart, said it continues to have an interest in a potential TikTok investment in the United States and that it continues discussions with ByteDance leadership and other interested parties.

13 September, 2020

ByteDance dumps Microsoft bid

ByteDance let Microsoft know that they would not be selling TikTok’s US operations to Microsoft. “We are confident our proposal would have been good for TikTok’s users, while protecting national security interests… We look forward to seeing how the service evolves in these important areas,” Microsoft said in a statement.

13 September, 2020

TikTok’s algorithm not for sale, ByteDance tells US

ByteDance will not sell or transfer the algorithm behind TikTok in any sale or divestment deal, as per a South China Morning Post reporting citing a source briefed on the Chinese company’s boardroom discussions. “The car can be sold, but not the engine. The company (ByteDance) will not hand out source code to any US buyer, but the technology team of TikTok in the US can develop a new algorithm,” the source was quoted as saying.

11 September, 2020

ByteDance plans to spend billions on Singapore base

ByteDance is planning to make Singapore its beachhead for the rest of Asia as part of its global expansion, as per a Bloomberg report citing sources. The company is looking to spend several billion dollars and add hundreds of jobs over the next three years in the city state, where it has applied for a licence to operate a digital bank, the report said adding that the plans include the establishment of a data centre. ByteDance’s operations in Singapore, the report said, include TikTok and Lark, an enterprise software business.

27 August, 2020

Walmart says interested in TikTok and will partner with Microsoft

Walmart said that it will partner with Microsoft to bid for TikTok's US assets, citing the way that TikTok has integrated e-commerce and advertising capabilities in other markets as a clear benefit to creators and users in those markets. “We believe a potential relationship with TikTok US in partnership with Microsoft could add this key functionality and provide Walmart with an important way for us to reach and serve omnichannel customers as well as grow our third-party marketplace and advertising businesses,” Walmart said.

27 August, 2020

Kevin Mayer quits TikTok

TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer has left the firm just three months since joining and only days since the company sued the administration of US President Donald Trump over an executive order effectively banning it in the country. Mayer, a former Disney executive, announced his departure in a letter to employees, according to multiple media reports.

25 August, 2020

TikTok reveals detailed user numbers for the first time

TikTok revealed specific global monthly active user details for the first time in a lawsuit challenging the US government over an effective ban that is set to take place in September, according to a CNBC report. In the filing, TikTok revealed it had about 55 million global users by January 2018, over 271 million by December 2018, and 507 million by December 2019. In August, TikTok surpassed 2 billion global downloads, and reported about 700 million monthly active users in July.

24 August, 2020

TikTok, employee separately sue Trump administration

TikTok and one of its employees separately sued the United States President Donald Trump’s administration over his executive order banning transactions in the United States, as per a Reuters report. TikTok called the order a pretext to fuel anti-China rhetoric as Trump seeks re-election, adding that it and its Chinese parent ByteDance had taken “extraordinary measures to protect the privacy and security of TikTok’s U.S. user data.”  Earlier in the day, ByteDance investors were said to be in talks to use their stakes in the Chinese technology firm to help finance their bid for TikTok, as per another Reuters report, citing sources.

17 August, 2020

Oracle considers joining the race

Oracle has held preliminary talks with ByteDance, and was seriously considering buying the app's operations in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, as per British newspaper Financial Times.

12 August, 2020

Mukesh Ambani led Reliance Industries gets involved

Mukesh Ambani joins the noisy deal talks, with Reliance Industries engaging ByteDance in early discussions to back TikTok’s business in India, as per a TechCrunch report.

12 August, 2020

TikTok and Helo employees in India hunt for jobs

It’s been well over a month since the ban of ByteDance-owned apps TikTok and Helo in India. Employees are said to be looking out for job opportunities at local alternatives, according to multiple employers in the consumer internet industry that TechCircle spoke to.

7 August, 2020

Microsoft is in talks to acquire all of TikTok

Microsoft is now in talks to buy all of TikTok’s global business, including India and Europe market, as per a Financial Times report. India was TikTok’s largest market by user-numbers, and had about 200 million users.

6 August, 2020

TikTok unveils ambitious data centre plan in Ireland

TikTok is to invest $500 million (€420 million) in a data centre in Ireland and create “hundreds of jobs” locally. “This is a demonstration of our commitment for the long term in Europe and this is also about cementing the important role that Ireland plays for TikTok,” Theo Bertram, the company’s head of public policy for Europe, told The Irish Times.

5 August, 2020

TikTok downloads decline

India is no longer on the list of top 10 countries with the most TikTok downloads. Even as TikTok, globally, remained the most downloaded non-game app globally for July, it witnessed download numbers drop to 65.2 million, from 87 million in June, according to a report from market research portal Sensor Tower. India, which made up 18.8% of TikTok’s downloads in June, was replaced by the US in July as the top contributor with a 9.7% share.

2 August, 2020

Microsoft pursues talks to buy TikTok US operations

Microsoft said it is in discussions to acquire short video platform TikTok’s operations in the United States, to preserve national security. The discussions with ByteDance, will be pursued and completed within September 15, it had added. Apart from the United States, TikTok’s service in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand was up for sale.

2 August, 2020

US gives 45 days sale or ban ultimatum to TikTok

Trump had given Microsoft and ByteDance a duration of 45 days to reach a deal, a Reuters report said, adding that Trump initially dismissed the idea of the deal, but changed his mind following pressure from some advisers and many in the Republican party, because banning TikTok could alienate many young voters.

30 July, 2020

Local digital rights org questions govt on apps ban

New Delhi based digital rights group Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) has objected to the government’s ban on Chinese mobile applications, alleging that the secrecy and opacity of the move violates digital rights of citizens. The Department of Telecommunications, in response, listed laws that back its action, as per screenshots posted on Twitter by IFF. However, it declined to mention the reasons for the ban, as the information sought by the applicant was “restricted” and “prohibited.”

29 July, 2020

TikTok discloses India plans to govt

TikTok is understood to have told the Indian government that it is ready to set up data centres in the country to store user information locally even as it denied any breach of user privacy and integrity, emphasising that its operations always adhered to local laws and regulations, as per an Economic Times report. The company added that it wants to set up an engineering centre in India that would work on global product and tech innovations.

20 July, 2020

TikTok eyes a headquarter change from Beijing to London

TikTok has chalked up plans to move its headquarters to London and is in talks with the United Kingdom government, according to reports from British media.

10 July, 2020

TikTok releases transparent report

TikTok took down 16 million videos from Indian users in the last six months of 2019 for violating its content policies, according to the company’s latest transparency report. India saw the most number of content removals, followed by the United States with 4.6 million. Pakistan (3.7 million), United Kingdom (2 million) and Russia (1.2 million) also made it to the list.

9 July, 2020

Facebook’s Instagram launches short video format Reels

Facebook owned photo-sharing platform Instagram said it has extended the testing of its short video format ‘Reels’ to India. India is the fourth country, after Brazil, Germany and France, where the new format is being tested. Reels lets Instagram users create and share short videos. Users can record and edit 15-second multi-clip videos with audio, effects and creative tools on Reels, and share them with their followers.

8 July, 2020

Indian govt mediation on the ban continues

The Indian government has sent a list of 50 questions to the 59 banned apps, seeking details about the parent companies and incorporation, according to an Economic Times report.

7 July, 2020

Gaana launches short video app

Music streaming platform Gaana has launched a short video app called HotShots. The platform offers “challenges” across music, comedy and dance by HotShot influencers, celebrities and international artists.

6 July, 2020

Following India, US considers a ban on TikTok

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US was considering a ban on Chinese social media apps, including TikTok, as per a Reuters report. Separately, Economic Times reported that the video sharing app was exiting the Hong Kong market within days, citing a TikTok statement. The decision follows the sweeping new national security law implemented by China in the semi-autonomous city.

6 July, 2020

India announces app challenge for creation of alternatives to foreign counterparts

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced an AatmaNirbhar Bharat App Innovation Challenge on Saturday to promote existing Indian apps and encourage companies to create new alternatives to foreign apps.

2 July, 2020

TikTok mediates the ban with Indian govt

TikTok has shared a plan with the Indian government to set up an engineering centre to design and develop products in India, according to a report by the Economic Times. The company has also reiterated its plan to set up a local data centre. TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer has reportedly requested for a meeting with the electronics and information technology minister Ravi Shankar Prasad to explain the data-sharing practices of the Chinese platform.

2 July, 2020

Google Play removes all 59 banned apps from platform

Google Play has removed all 59 Chinese apps banned by the government, while the App Store has discontinued a majority of them in India, based on an announcement by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.

1 July, 2020

TikTok alternatives in India report user surge

In less than 48 hours since the Indian government banned 59 Chinese apps in the country, homegrown alternatives reported a rise in user engagement, so much so that a TikTok substitute went crashing.

30 June, 2020

TikTok app, website is cut-off in India

TikTok goes missing from Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store. Existing users on TikTok are unable to scroll for new videos and the app could not be accessed even on desktop. Other banned ByteDance apps such as video platform Vigo and social network Helo could also not be downloaded from the app stores. While the Indian government’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology issued orders to browsers to block only TikTok from the India app stores, it provided no such directive for the remaining 58 apps.

29 June, 2020

TikTok, 58 other apps get banned in India

Citing concerns around the sovereignty and integrity of India, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has banned 59 Chinese apps from mobile and non-mobile use by Indians, including TikTok.

3 June, 2020

India leads TikTok downloads globally

TikTok continues to be the most downloaded app in the non-game segment across the world, with India leading the rally. It has garnered close to 111.9 million installs in May, compared to 131 million in April, according to data from Sensor Tower. With 22.38 million installs, India accounted for nearly 20% of the total downloads in May, a mere 7% fall from 24 million in April.

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