The potential acquisition of elements of TikTok by Microsoft will be difficult. The social network shares a lot of resources with other applications of TikTok’s parent company ByteDance.
Microsoft plans on purchasing only part of the social network: the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. According to sources from Reuters, it may take more than a year to completely separate TikTok.
ByteDance started separating the basic code of TikTok from the Chinese variant Douyin a few months ago. Most of the basic code is already completely separated, but TikTok still shares server code with other ByteDance applications. The server code provides deeper functionality such as data storage and algorithms for moderating and recommending content.
Another challenge Microsoft faces is the unique algorithm that made TikTok such a hit. The algorithm suggests new videos based on the viewing behaviour of the users. The algorithm is independent of Douyin, but what makes TikTok so popular is the data on which the algorithm is trained. This data comes from every country where ByteDance is present. As a result, Microsoft has to separate this data which can take a long time.
President Trump announced last week that Microsoft must close a deal with TikTok within 45 days, which means that everything must be settled by the 15th of September. The big problem is that the Trump administration is pushing for a complete separation between ByteDance and TikTok. Because of the technical aspects of the acquisition, ByteDance and Microsoft are forced to work together even after the 15th of September to ensure that all matters run smoothly. The U.S. government may consider this transition period to be unacceptable.
Last week, Mike Pompeo, the American Secretary of State, announced that the government wants to introduce a ‘clean network’ without Chinese technology and applications.