If you listen carefully, you might just hear Mark Zuckerberg shutter — users are now spending more time on TikTok than Facebook.
What's going on: TikTok, for the first time ever, placed ahead of Facebook in monthly time spent per user, up 325 percent year-over-year, according to mobile data and analytics firm App Annie.
China-based TikTok is expected to surpass 1.2 billion active monthly users in 2021. Based on Chinese popularity alone, TikTok is of the world’s most popular apps and an important marketplace for indie hackers to prioritize.
The challenge: TikTok's rise and former President Donald Trump's ban of the platform provides a freshly ordained White House a looming foreign policy challenge. President Joe Biden's approach will also serve as a bellwether of his strategy with managing China.
The background: In August, Trump signed an executive order banning TikTok's U.S. operations on grounds of national security.
The order claimed that TikTok, as well as popular social media messaging app WeChat, allows the Chinese government to harvest user data, censors political topics, and could be a vehicle of misinformation.
A handful of judges struck down the order, and the Trump administration quickly appealed. Now, Oracle and Walmart are teaming up to buy a 20 percent stake in TikTok’s U.S. assets to form a new entity.
Stay informed on the ways Big Tech impacts indie business:
How Biden handles TikTok will indicate how the U.S. plans to combat the growing economic and political threats that China presents. Trump's move to extend the appeal case's timeline into the Biden administration indicates that he largely gave up on the effort to ban TikTok.
Biden, who can simply rescind Trump's executive order banning TikTok, will likely not pursue the appeals case, foreign policy experts say.
Why it matters: Biden’s pick for the U.S. Commerce Department, Gina Raimondo, will inherit the Trump administration’s efforts to ban TikTok and WeChat.
What's going on: It’s unclear whether the Biden administration will ditch the appeal efforts, which have a Feb. 18 deadline. But what is certain is that Biden’s pick for Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, is already committing to a hard stance toward China.
"There is no doubt [China] poses the most significant challenge of any nation-state to the United States in terms of our interests and the interests of the American people. … We have to start by approaching China from a position of strength, not weakness. The good news is our ability to do that is largely within our control — a position of strength is when we are working with and not denigrating our allies. That is a source of strength for us when dealing with China."
What remains: There is a broad bipartisan agreement that the U.S. must do more to fight China’s theft of intellectual property and its influence on tech around the world. The methods on how to accomplish that will certainly be a fierce debate that will last years. Regardless, foreign policy experts expect the Biden administration will have a more consistent approach than Trump’s jumbled attempt of aggression and indifference.
Indie impact: TikTok is an important channel for indie hackers to market and distribute their products. President Biden's regulatory approach towards TikTok, though, will have a profound impact on how digitally-focused entrepreneurs can reach new customers that are increasingly put off by incumbent social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
Do you use TikTok for marketing? How do you think the Biden administration should handle TikTok? Please share your thoughts.