China says apps should get user consent before tracking


This post is by Rita Liao from TechCrunch


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Chinese regulators might follow the European Union’s lead to make life harder for internet companies such as TikTok that closely track behavior of their users in a move that could significantly hurt their revenue.

Last week, Beijing proposed a new set of measures to enforce data security for individuals and the nation overall. According to Article 23 of the draft (see translation from China Law Translate), companies that are “using user data and algorithms to deliver news information or commercial advertisements shall conspicuously label them with the words ‘targeted’ and provide users with functionality to stop receiving information from targeted delivery.”

This is good news for users in China, who could potentially take more control over what they are shown and what tech companies collect about them.

On the flip side of the coin, stepped up data protection will “definitely have an impact” on companies that rely heavily on

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Tencent promises its technology will ‘do good’


This post is by Rita Liao from TechCrunch


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Tencent, one of Asia’s most valuable companies with a current market cap of around $460 billion, has introduced a new motto after co-founder and CEO Pony Ma said this week he wanted ‘tech for good’ to be part of the company’s vision and mission in the future.

The company has not yet officialized the new corporate philosophy and it’s unclear how the “don’t be evil”-like slogan will manifest in Tencent’s business strategy. Nor do we know if it will replace the old mission, which is still emblazoned on its website:

Tencent’s mission is to “improve the quality of life through internet value-added services”. Guided by its “user oriented” business philosophy, Tencent achieves its mission via the delivery of integrated internet solutions to over 1 billion netizens.

Episodes of recent events can probably provide some hints to what the new slogan might entail. The old mission, which focuses on the

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TikTok parent Bytedance is getting serious about games


This post is by Rita Liao from TechCrunch


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A turbulent 2018 for China’s gaming market hasn’t held back newcomers. Bytedance, the world’s most valuable startup behind a collection of rising new media apps including TikTok and Jinri Toutiao, is making a further push into video games after it took control of a mobile game developer through a roundabout deal.

According to a business registration filing, Shanghai Mokun has become wholly owned by Beijing Zhaoxi Guangnian, a second-tier subsidiary of Bytedance. Mokun is a mobile game developer previously owned by 37 Interactive Entertainment, a publicly listed games publisher that earmarked $791 million in revenue last year, which makes the Shanghai-based company about one-sixth the size of Activision Blizzard.

Zhang Lidong, a veteran journalist-turned senior vice president at Bytedance, has taken the helm as Mokun’s legal representative.

The price of the deal is undisclosed. A spokesperson from Bytedance declines to comment on the transaction. TechCrunch has reached out to

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A government propaganda app is going viral in China


This post is by Rita Liao from TechCrunch


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Besides binge-watching TikTok videos and battling enemies in the magical land of mobile games, many Chinese people may also pass time during the upcoming Lunar New Year on Xuexi Qiangguo, a news and chat app developed by the country’s top ideology officials.

The app managed to top the Chinese App Store between January 22 and 25 before two ByteDance apps pushed it down to the third place this week, download statistics from App Annie shows. At a glance, the news section is almost exclusively about the Communist Party and president Xi Jinping.

xuexi qiangguo

The app is almost exclusively about the Communist Party and president Xi Jinping.

It doubles as an instant messenger, with development support provided by Alibaba’s Dingtalk enterprise communications tool. That means users can log in via their Dingtalk account and chat with their Dingtalk contacts directly over Xuexi Qiangguo. Alibaba explains this is a “regular business collaboration” between Dingtalk’s

xuexi qiangguo
xuexi qiangguo

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Tencent AI Lab loses key executive


This post is by Rita Liao from TechCrunch


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Chinese internet giant Tencent just lost a leading artificial intelligence figure. Zhang Tong, who previously worked at Yahoo, IBM and Baidu, has stepped down after directing Tencent’s AI Lab for nearly two years.

The scientist will return to academia and continue research in the AI field, Tencent confirmed with TechCrunch on Thursday, adding that it hasn’t appointed a successor.

”We are grateful for [Zhang]’s contributions to Tencent AI Lab and continue to explore fundamental and applied research that can make the benefits of AI accessible to everyone, everywhere,” Tencent said in a statement.

Zhang’s departure is the latest in a handful of top AI scientists quitting large Chinese tech firms. In 2017, search giant Baidu lost its chief scientist Andrew Ng who started Google’s deep learning initiative. Last year, the firm suffered another blow as renown AI expert Lu Qi resigned as chief operating officer and moved onto spearheading

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China’s WeChat is the latest to get Snap-like ‘Stories’


This post is by Rita Liao from TechCrunch


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WeChat, the Chinese messaging giant with over 1 billion monthly active users around the world, just added a Snap-like ephemeral video feature as part of its biggest overhaul since 2014.

The revamp comes as Tencent, which owns stakes in Snap, sees increasing rivalry from up-and-comers like video app TikTok and news app Jinri Toutiao. WeChat has over the years morphed beyond a straight-up messenger to include many utility purposes. With more than 1 million lightweight apps up and running, users can accomplish a long list of tasks ranging from shopping to ride-hailing without ever having to leave WeChat.

Meanwhile, some have expressed frustration over WeChat’s core as a social app. Moments, a feature akin to Facebook News Feed, was once a haven for close friends to share articles, photos and videos. But newsfeed content became blander over time as people’s contact list grows to include their bosses and their local

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TikTok parent ByteDance sues Chinese news site that exposed fake news problem


This post is by Rita Liao from TechCrunch


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There’s worrying news from China’s online media world as ByteDance, the $75 billion company behind popular video app TikTok is taking a news site to court for alleged defamation after it published a story about ByteDance’s fake news problem in India.

U.S. tech firms have come to rely on media to help uncover issues, but Chinese tech news site Huxiu has become the latest litigation target of ByteDance, which reportedly surpassed Uber’s valuation after raising $3 billion. The company has sued internet giants Tencent and Baidu in the past year for alleged anti-competitive behavior.

This time around, ByteDance — which is backed by SoftBank’s Vision Fund, KKR and General Atlantic among others — has taken issue with an op-ed published earlier this month that spotlights a fake news problem on its Indian language news app, Helo.

Launched in July as part of ByteDance’s push in India, Helo competes with local media

douyin tiktok musically

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China’s ByteDance leapfrogs Uber to becomes world’s most valuable startup


This post is by Jon Russell from TechCrunch


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Move aside Uber, China’s ByteDance is now the world’s highest-valued tech startup.

That’s according to reports from Forbes and Bloomberg both of which claim that the company has completed a $3 billion investment that values the company at $75 billion. A source with knowledge of the deal confirmed the round to TechCrunch and suggested that the value is pre-money, which, adding the round, would put ByteDance’s valuation at $78 billion. That’s ahead of Uber’s most recent $72 billion valuation, although the ride-hailing giant is being tipped to go public next year at a valuation of up to $120 billion.

ByteDance did not respond to a request for comment.

We previously reported that ByteDance was in talks with KKR and General Atlantic, and they were joined by SoftBank in the round — with Bloomberg reporting SoftBank plans to put in a total of around $1.8 billion which will include buying out

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Google will struggle if it re-enters China, says its former country head


This post is by Jon Russell from TechCrunch


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The odds are stacked against Google if the reports are true and the company is trying to bring its services back to China, according to the former head of Google China.

News reports last month uncovered details of internal plans to introduce a search product and a news app in China, moves that would mark a re-entry to the consumer market which Google left in 2010. The plans, which follow a noticeable increase in activity in China from Google, were widely criticized by activists and also raised concern internally from Google employees.

Kaifu Lee left the search giant nine years following a four-year stint, and today he’s best-known as one of the world’s leading thinkers on AI and the founding partner of Chinese VC Sinovation Ventures. Speaking at TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco this week, he shared his belief that China’s tech ecosystem is rapidly catching the U.S. on

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Fast-growing Chinese media startup ByteDance is raising $2.5B-$3B more


This post is by Jon Russell from TechCrunch


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Fast-growing Chinese media startup ByteDance is looking to raise as much as $3 billion to continue growth for its empire of mobile-based entertainment apps, which include news aggregator Toutiao and video platform Tiktok.

The Beijing-based startup is in early-stage talks with investors to raise $2.5 billion to $3 billion, according to a source with knowledge of the plans. That investment round could value ByteDance as high as $75 billion, although the source stressed that the valuation is a target and it might not be reached.

It’s audacious, but if that lofty goal is reached then ByteDance would become the world’s highest-valued startup ahead of the likes of Didi Chuxing ($56 billion) and Uber ($62 billion). Only Ant Financial has raised at a higher valuation, but the company is an affiliate of Alibaba and therefore not your average ‘startup.’

The Wall Street Journal first

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Short video service Musical.ly is merging into sister app TikTok


This post is by Jon Russell from TechCrunch


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Musical.ly, the short video app that’s popular among teens and young people, is going away. Kinda of.

The app and all user data and accounts is being merged with Toktok, a sister app that’s owned by ByteDance, the Chinese company that acquired Musical.ly for around $1 billion last year.

The switch-over happens today (Thursday) and it should be relatively seamless. Users of Musical.ly will see their app switch to TikTok once they update the app, and they should find their account, videos and personal settings inside the new app as per usual.

ByteDance is making the move to consolidate its audiences on both apps. Four-year-old Musical.ly, which is particularly popular in the U.S., has around 100 million users while TikTok, which was created in 2016 and operates worldwide minus China, claims 500 million monthly active users. In China, the sister product is Douyin, while the company

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There’s more: Google is also said to be developing a censored news app for China


This post is by Jon Russell from TechCrunch


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Can Google’s week get any worse? Less than a day after the revelation that it is planning a censored search engine for China, so comes another: the U.S. firm is said to be developing a government-friendly news app for the country, where its search engine and other services remain blocked.

That’s according to The Information which reports that Google is essentially cloning Toutiao, the hugely popular app from new media startup ByteDance, in a bid to get back into the country and the minds of its 700 million mobile internet users. Like Toutiao, the app would apparently use AI and algorithms to serve stories to readers — as opposed to real-life human editors — while it too would be designed to work within the bounds of Chinese internet censorship.

That last part is interesting because ByteDance and other news apps have gotten into trouble from the government for failing

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Tencent leads $50M investment in NewsDog, an app vying to be India’s Toutiao


This post is by Jon Russell from TechCrunch


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The growth of China’s Bytedance, an ambitious $30 billion tech firm, and its highly-addictive Toutiao news aggregator app has set off a search for services with similar growth potential across the world.

India, second in population only to China with rapidly-growing internet access, is an obvious place to look, and would-be pretender to the Toutiao crown has been found in the shape of NewsDog, a Chinese company that stumbled on success in India. Today, NewsDog announced a $50 million Series C round led by Chinese internet giant Tencent.

Toutiao is a phenomenon in China. The app has around 200 million daily users, and it is one of the few new tech products to emerge in a China where Tencent and Alibaba dominate the consumer app landscape. Point in case, it is so mainstream now that it has even run into issues with China’s internet censors. Toutiao is essentially a

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As Chinese censorship intensifies, gays are back while teenage mothers and tattoos are out


This post is by Danny Crichton from TechCrunch


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Following the passage of a new cybersecurity law and the removal of term limits from Chinese president Xi Jinping, China’s government is conducting a comprehensive crackdown on online discussions and content, with few companies spared the rod by the central government.

Among the casualties has been Bytedance, the extremely high-flying $20 billion media unicorn startup which was forced to publicly apologize for content that degraded the character of the nation. The government forced the company to shut down its popular Neihan Duanzi comedy app, as well as to remove its headline news app, Jinri Toutiao, for three weeks. The company announced that it would expand the number of human censors from 6,000 to 10,000.

Another high-flying media unicorn, Kuaishou, has been under fire for allowing teenage moms to be depicted in a positive light. The app is unique among China’s top social networks in focusing on ordinary Chinese

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Fast-growing Chinese media startup ByteDance enters 2018 with some uncertainty


This post is by Jon Russell from TechCrunch


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 One of the fastest rising Chinese startups of last year had a bumpy ride into 2018 after falling foul of China’s internet censors for the first. ByteDance, the new media firm behind news app Toutiao and the owner of Musical.ly courtesy of a $1 billion deal, had a standout 2018. Its valuation jumped to more than $20 billion, it picked a number of international services —… Read More

The 57 Startups That Became Unicorns in 2017


This post is by Jeff Desjardins from Technology – Visual Capitalist


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Chart: The 57 Startups That Became Unicorns in 2017

57 New Unicorns in 2017

Collectively, they’re now worth $116.5B

The Chart of the Week is a weekly Visual Capitalist feature on Fridays.

For a startup, reaching the coveted $1 billion unicorn valuation is an important milestone – but as we’ve found out in recent years, it’s not necessarily a guarantee of future success.

In 2017, there were 57 startups that crossed the unicorn threshold, and they range from well-known companies, such as Reddit or Quora, to rapid-risers like China’s Toutiao (now valued at $20 billion), which has seemingly come out of nowhere.

Investors have conviction that these companies will provide the platforms and products of the future, and they are placing big bets on them to deliver.

Will they live up to the hype, or will they ultimately end up in the unicorn graveyard?

Unicorn Births by Year

With 57 new unicorns, this year ranks third overall in

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Ambitious new media firm ByteDance is no longer a secret outside of China


This post is by Jon Russell from TechCrunch


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 ByteDance is a name that is about to become very familiar to everyone in international tech circles. Really it should already be. It is valued at $20 billion and its flagship Toutiao news reader app is one of China’s fastest growing internet services with 120 million daily users. It is in the process of raising a $2 billion funding round and revenue for this year is reportedly forecast… Read More

China’s Toutiao is buying Musical.ly in a deal worth $800M-$1B


This post is by Jon Russell,Katie Roof from TechCrunch


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 Musical.ly, the lip-syncing app popular with teens and young people, has been sold to Chinese social media giant Toutiao, according to an announcement made today. The deal is undisclosed by sources tell TechCrunch that Bytedance, the company behind China’s top news aggregator service Toutiao, will pay between $800 million and $1 billion to buy Musical.ly, which claims 60 million users… Read More

Chinese news reading app Toutiao acquires Flipagram


This post is by Romain Dillet from TechCrunch


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HQ Popular video app Flipagram is getting acquired by Chinese company Toutiao for an undisclosed amount. Flipagram was once a social media darling but the startup has been quiet recently. Flipagram will remain an independent product for the time being and the team will stay in its own office in the U.S. Recode first reported that Flipagram was looking for a buyer. Flipagram had raised a big… Read More