- TikTok parent company ByteDance is reportedly close to announcing the buyer of its US operations.
- Given TikTok’s immense popularity with the younger generation, it’s clear why large companies like Microsoft, Walmart, and Oracle would be interested in acquiring its US operations.
- What’s less clear, however, is how the app might change under new ownership.
- Experts say it’s too soon to tell, but some predict that companies like Walmart or Oracle could add new monetization and advertising tools.
- A big priority, however, will be to maintain the app’s current appeal and popularity.
After weeks of deliberation, TikTok parent company ByteDance is said to be on the verge of announcing which company will be the buyer of its United States operations.
TikTok has reportedly decided on a buyer and could be ready to make an announcement as soon as this week, CNBC reported on Monday. But new rules governing how China’s technology can be exported have slowed down discussions, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The acquisition talks began to surface when President Trump issued an executive order targeting TikTok in early August that would ban any transactions with ByteDance by any person under the jurisdiction of the United States.
It’s clear why such companies would be interested in the acquisition. Microsoft, for one, could use TikTok to make a stronger impression on younger consumers. It also has the cloud infrastructure to support a popular video platform like TikTok. For Walmart, TikTok presents an opportunity to grow its advertising and ecommerce businesses, while Oracle may be interested in using the platform to boost its marketing business and cloud tools.
But what remains uncertain is the impact that such an acquisition could have on TikTok itself, an app that’s grown to become one of the most popular social platforms among Generation Z with more than 2.3 billion all-time downloads. Moreover, China’s new export rules could threaten TikTok’s popularity if the app’s “For You” algorithm is withheld from the sale.
There’s no way to know how TikTok may change, but some experts have speculated that companies like Microsoft, Walmart, and Oracle could add tools to make monetization easier for influencers and advertisers, while also maintaining and improving the app’s user experience.
Microsoft, Walmart, and Oracle declined to comment on their potential plans for TikTok in the event of an acquisition. Walmart pointed Business Insider to its previous statement on the matter.
‘Let’s not rock the boat’
Experts say that any new owner is likely to try and preserve the app’s appeal by leaving it largely unchanged. At least for now.
“The immediate focus would be, let’s not rock the boat,” Mukul Krishna, global head of practice for digital enterprise and digital media at Frost & Sullivan, said to Business Insider. “If you’re talking about [the] immediate future, nothing’s going to, at least to the user, apparently change because the companies themselves would be just working really, really hard to preserve what they have acquired.”
That being said, it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility to see some changes if TikTok’s US operations gain new ownership. But it would take some time before any meaningful updates appear.
Some changes to the app could involve behind-the-scenes revisions to make the app compliant with the terms of the deal and Trump’s executive order from a security perspective. Others could create more opportunity for monetization depending on the interests of the new owner.
It’s also worth noting that both Microsoft and Oracle have a track record of working closely with the US government and law enforcement. President Trump acknowledged Microsoft’s history of working with the government in a press conference in August. He pointed to Microsoft’s “high level”security clearance, which allows it to work with federal agencies like the Department of Defense.
More advertising and tools for influencers
Walmart said in a previous statement that partnering with Microsoft to acquire TikTok could help it “reach and serve omnichannel customers” and grow its “third-party marketplace and advertising business.”
Still, it’s unclear precisely what that would mean for the TikTok user experience. Brian Yarbrough, a senior analyst of equity research with Edward Jones, speculates that could mean Walmart integrating more advertising into the app given its focus on-ecommerce.
“I wouldn’t expect a lot of changes, but I would probably expect over time to see more advertisements,” Yarbrough said.
An Oracle acquisition could give the enterprise tech giant a leg up in the digital marketing space, considering it would have access to data on up-and-coming TikTok influencers that could be useful to advertisers, Krishna says. As for the app itself, Oracle could potentially launch more tools for providing influencers with ways to monetize their content.
“[If] you talk to any digital marketer, right now they’re trying to identify influencers on all these platforms,” Krishna said. “‘Who’s a TikTok influencer, who should I be reaching out to?'”
Better performance and security
But perhaps the most likely change would be increased security. Any buyer would likely have to meet specific security demands to gain approval, since the executive order against TikTok stems from national security concerns in the first place.
“Security protocols, data protection, all of that has to be top of mind for whoever acquires it,” Krishna said. “So a company that understands data, understands how best to secure it and all of those things, needs to be a key part of the entire equation.”
Microsoft may also try to make enhancements to the app’s user interface, such as making it more personalized and improving recommendations, Krishna said.
Oracle’s cloud technology could also potentially boost the app’s performance by enabling lower latency, Ray Wang, principal analyst and founder of Constellation Research, said, adding that both Microsoft and Oracle were likely to focus on security.
Regardless of which company acquires TikTok — and there’s still the possibility that ByteDance holds onto it — it’s impossible to know exactly what changes will be coming to users. Still, experts agree that any potential buyer would likely maintain the experience that’s made it so popular, and work on developing backend changes first.
“I don’t think anybody wants to mess with the content creation, the ease of use, the fact that the network is already there,” Wang said. “This is about building the next digital giant.”