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TikTok might not have existed without insights from Steve Jobs

TikTok might not have existed without Steve Jobs

The story of TikTok's start highlights how visionary ideas, much like those of Steve Jobs, can have unexpected paths that profoundly impact global technology and culture.

A recent examination of court documents and business transactions reveals a complex web of investments and technological pivots that trace back to an obscure Chinese real estate venture.

In 2009, Susquehanna International Group, a firm well-known for its strategic market placements, invested in a promising Chinese real estate start-up named 99Fang, which boasted a sophisticated search algorithm. The venture didn't meet its commercial expectations but set the stage for what would later become ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok.

During this transitional period, Zhang Yiming, ByteDance's founder, inspired by Jobs' life, envisioned a new direction that would shift from real estate to entertainment and media. Thus, he planted the seed for TikTok, according to a report from The New York Times.

"Our search, image processing, recommendation, etc. are very powerful," Mr. Zhang wrote in a 2012 email. "But these things applied to real estate are very limited."

The detailed court records, a focal point of scrutiny, suggest that Susquehanna's involvement was integral in pivoting the technology from its initial real estate application to a platform that could host dynamic, user-driven content. The pivot mirrors Jobs' capacity for recognizing and harnessing technology in transformative ways that redefine industries.

Current debates and TikTok's future

While TikTok basks in its global popularity as one of the most engaging platforms, it also finds itself under intense scrutiny. US lawmakers are currently engaged in a heated debate over the potential national security risks that could arise from TikTok's Chinese ownership.

Some proposals could lead to drastic measures, such as banning the app or forcing a divestment of its US operations.

The discourse unfolds against a backdrop of wider US-China tensions, spanning trade, technology, and geopolitical rivalries. The outcomes of these debates could not only shape the future of TikTok but also establish precedents for international technology governance.