At first glance, TikTok and Douyin appear identical, from the same music note logo to the same scrolling UI. And for the most part, they are. Both are popular apps based on video content, often comedy or dance, spanning 15 seconds to 3 minutes. Yet despite parent company ByteDance’s attempts to brand the two as the same. They are completely separate entities. So what differentiates the two?
The most obvious difference between the two is who they’re marketed towards. Essentially, TikTok was developed to be the international version of Douyin (抖音). Which is solely used in China. Available in over 150 countries, TikTok was first launched worldwide after merging with Musica.ly. Another Chinese social media service.
ByteDance runs two completely different systems for the two apps. Therefore neither has access to each other’s content. Accounts on TikTok are not available to Douyin users and vice versa. Naturally leading to dissimilar popular trends. For example, educational content is one of the most viewed categories of Douyin videos. As opposed to the more comedy-focused content that TikTok users trend.
Additionally, availability in downloading also depends on location. Douyin is only available in Chinese app stores, such as CoolPad (酷派应用商店) or ZTE App Store (中兴应用商店). Likewise, TikTok can be downloaded in Apple’s App Store or Google’s Play Store. But not through any Chinese app store.
Although most features remain the same through both apps. Douyin offers extensive e-commerce and buying capabilities. Users can directly purchase shoppable items on the app by clicking on tagged products. Indicated by a yellow shopping cart icon. The button redirects users to a product page where they can shop items. The range is incredibly vast. It ranges from smaller items such as clothing to being able to book hotels.
In contrast, TikTok offers significantly fewer e-commerce options. However the app is currently testing out shopping features. With TikTok Shopping, merchants are able to add a Shopping Tab to their profile and add product links to their videos. The platform also supports third-party partners including Shopify, Square, Ecwid, and PrestaShop. They plan on adding more features in the near future. TikTok also announced that they will be utilizing Shopping API. Which will allow businesses to feature their product catalogs on the app. Additionally, the app is integrating Collection Ads. That will allow brands to add product cards in their In-Feed Ads.
Live-streaming is a popular form of content on Douyin. Which is accessible through an icon on the upper right corner. Many businesses utilize this feature to promote their products and services. In efforts to encourage users to directly purchase on the app. Although TikTok also offers live streams. It is more used for creators to connect and interact with their viewers. Currently, the feature is only available to accounts with over 1,000 followers. Although this will likely extend to all users in the future.
Douyin also offers a variety of other entertainment, including minigames. Which users can access on their profile through the sidebar. You can now also stream full-length feature films for free. Including the movies the Last Emperor and Farewell my Concubine.
Privacy and Data Collection
According to a report done by the Citizen Lab. TikTok and Douyin don’t showcase particularly aggressive data collection behavior. However, do retain information that could be invasive to the user’s privacy.
Similar to other western social media. TikTok gathers data to track user behavior and promote targeted advertising. This is done by tracking users’ interests, including what posts they view and follow. The information is sent directly to TikTok’s servers or to third parties such as Facebook or Google.
In contrast, Douyin collects data on the users’ device and usage patterns. which is also sent directly to Douyin’s servers or other Chinese companies. to name a few, Aliyun or Umeng. This has consequently raised concerns over whether the Chinese government has access to US information. but TikTok affirms that this is false. The apps have separate servers.