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Colin Devroe

Photographer. Podcaster. Blogger. Reverse Engineer.

Microsoft in talks to buy TikTok

August 3, 2020

Microsoft:

This new structure would build on the experience TikTok users currently love, while adding world-class security, privacy, and digital safety protections. The operating model for the service would be built to ensure transparency to users as well as appropriate security oversight by governments in these countries.

I cannot tell if this is a bad decision or a great decision by Nadella.

I’ve already said that I believe Satya Nadella is the best CEO in Microsoft’s history. So I’m willing to concede that he can see this move, and its implications, with a wider perspective than I can – but I’ll just briefly comment on the good and bad.

The bad first. TikTok comes with a huge amount of baggage. Its ties to China, the issues with its algorithm, and its apparent – and obvious – promotion of “pretty” people over “ugly” people. Perhaps the first move by TikTok to eliminate some of this was this transparency push?

The other baggage is that the platform, young though it is, is being used as a political tool already.

The good is that TikTok is obviously the next “Story” platform. Or, perhaps it is already the “Story” platform. What SnapChat stole from others, Instagram and Facebook stole from SnapChat, and now TikTok is the latest place for mostly short entertaining ephemeral content.

TikTok could, however, have some issue monetizing. SnapChat has. It is clear SnapChat will never become Facebook. By Instagram implementing Stories even better than SnapChat did they squashed nearly all of their growth. Instagram could have done the same thing to TikTok but I believe the talent has left the building over at Instagram.

I’ve seen a fair number of social platforms come and go. Most do not make it. And a lot of times it isn’t because they ran out of money – though that is the reason a lot of the time. Many times it is because building a platform that takes off like a rocket ship and immediately comes under intense scrutiny is very difficult to navigate. Platforms become known for the users and content they attract.

Microsoft would be an excellent partner for TikTok. They have the platform figured out, security*, privacy, etc. they are well known for, and their reputation inside of the US may help bolster TikTok’s reputation.

However, they have zero experience running a social network at scale. Remember when Balmer was thinking of buying Twitter? Though I don’t think they would have been under Microsoft. To wade into the mire that is social networking on the internet – while it has been massively profitable for Facebook – is fraught with peril I think.

I’m beginning to ramble. Again, I cannot see if this is a great move or a terrible one by Nadella. However, as CEO of one of the largest companies in the history of mankind – this is what he’s paid to do. A few years from now we’ll see whether or not this was a mistake.

* By security I mean that Microsoft is very good at its services business being secure. The most secure businesses and government agencies rely on a ton of Microsoft software and services. So they’ve proven that ability many times over.

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