China’s TikTok gets its own web version as user growth plateaus, nearing the country’s total mobile user base

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Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, has launched a web version of its app accessible to desktop users, shifting away from its “mobile-only” strategy as it seeks new growth in a saturated market.

Douyin.com has much of the same functionality as the app, allowing users to search, upload, watch, like and comment on videos and livestreamed content. However, the web version looks more like a traditional video site, with an endless scroll of video thumbnails on the homepage for users to browse. This is in contrast to the app, which forces users to swipe through one video at a time.

The website still relies on the platform’s signature recommendation algorithm, developed by the app’s owner ByteDance and a primary contributor to its success, which displays tailored videos depending on the user and device.

The website is designed to “satisfy users’ needs for different scenarios”, a Douyin representative said.

“Some professors and schools post educational or instructional content that is usually longer than five minutes,” the person added. “The web is a better platform to consume these types of videos.”

Ge Jia, an industry analyst, said the Douyin website is an attempt by ByteDance to stave off plateauing traffic growth as its mobile user base approaches the total number of smartphone users in China.

“It is also encroaching on the turf of traditional video sites, like [Baidu’s] iQiyi and Tencent Video,” Ge said, referencing two of ByteDance’s Big Tech rivals.

This step also brings Douyin in line with its sister app TikTok, which has long had a web version to take advantage of markets with lower smartphone penetration or places where desktop use is more prevalent than in China, such as the US. Desktop applications have been a secondary concern in China’s mobile-first market.

By the end of 2020, China had 986 million mobile users, more than 70% of the country’s population, according to the China Internet Network Information Centre (CNNIC).

Douyin’s daily active users reached 700 million during the Lunar New Year holiday in February, according to Tencent Holdings-owned news outlet Yixian, after surpassing 600 million nearly a year ago.

ByteDance expects user growth to soon hit a ceiling, but the company could eke out some additional mobile growth in the future as more people come online. Roughly 50% of China’s rural population still does not have Internet access, according to CNNIC.

Meanwhile, the Douyin website remains a work in progress. It is still in a beta stage, the company said, and will be better optimised over time. – South China Morning Post



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