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Parmy Olson

Why Everybody Wants to Be Like TikTok

Industry analyst Matt Navarra says Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram will face challenges in copying the short-form video format pioneered by the China-owned social-media site.

In this photo illustration, a Tiktok logo is displayed on
Photographer: SOPA Images/LightRocket

The saga of Elon Musk’s Twitter Inc. deal has overshadowed nearly everything else happening in the social-media business in the past two months, including signs that the industry’s biggest players are trying to imitate an increasingly powerful competitor: TikTok.

Owned by Beijing-based Byte Dance Ltd., TikTok has amassed more than 1 billion active users, thanks to a mesmerizing stream of short videos curated by AI algorithms, creating what Mark Zuckerberg has called an “unprecedented” competitor. Despite regulatory challenges in both the US and China, consumer use of TikTok has swelled, with kids spending an average 80 minutes a day on the app. Little wonder the platform giants are dabbling with ways to copy it. Social-media consultant and industry analyst Matt Navara explained how that might work out in a Twitter Spaces discussion with me last week. Here is an edited transcript: