[Editorial Analysis] For whom the TikToks: on Chinese apps

Mains Paper 2: Economy

Prelims level: Chinese apps

Mains level: Infrastructure

Context

• Chinese apps are making huge inroads in the Indian market. According to the tech news portal FactorDaily.

• Two of the top 10 mobile apps in India in December 2017 were Chinese-owned; this increased to five as of December 2018.

• TikTok is an addictive viral video app owned by ByteDance, a $75 billion cash-rich behemoth.

Key features of this app

• The app, which allows users to make short videos of up to 60 seconds, is a rage among teenagers not just in India but around the world.

• TikTok seems to have cracked the code of combining stickiness, sociality, and user-generated content better than any of the Silicon Valley giants.

• It is already being spoken of as something that could render YouTube irrelevant, thanks to the algorithmic superiority of its video-making/video-sharing interface.

• Some believe it could make Instagram obsolete, given its more aggressive indulgence of users’ craving for selfie-powered micro-celebrity.

• In terms of the audio-visual genre, TikTok is unabashedly meme-driven.

• As for its USP, it has positioned itself as the first port of call for adolescent self-expression, knowing well that if this demographic cares for anything at all, it is fun-filled, creative self-expression meant to impress one’s peer group, and the more problematic the manner of self-expression, the more likely they are to embrace it.

• A user who downloads the app and opens it for the first time is instantly greeted by an endless avalanche of snazzy videos that, if you are not careful, can turn your brain to mush before you can say ‘TikTok’.

• The videos, by and large, fall into three categories: comedic skits, lip-synch songs or dialogues, and teens dancing suggestively to popular music.
• Many videos feature just one person, and are evidently shot in the user’s home, often the bedroom.

Privacy concerns

• The teen-heavy user base either doesn’t understand privacy or doesn’t care for it.

• TikTok has drawn flak in many countries, including Australia, France, Hong Kong and the U.S., for its laxity in privacy protection and enforcement of minimum age norms.

• Parents have flagged the danger of paedophiles contacting minors on the platform.

• In India, PMK leader S. Ramadoss recently called for a ban on TikTok on the grounds that the app was causing “cultural degradation” by allowing youngsters to upload “suggestive sexual dance choreography”.

Way forward

• There is little doubt that TikTok raises the burden of parental anxiety, especially at a time when their wards are least likely to be appreciative of parental supervision.

• But the app’s mass popularity among India’s youth is something that begs for serious analysis, not just among sociologists and cultural critics.

• The ubiquitous advocates of Digital India who must answer how, soon after the abject surrender in the smartphone sector, even in the content-centric app market.

• Indian companies are unable to hold their own against the Chinese onslaught.

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Prelims Questions:

Q.1) Consider the following statements:

A. Chhari-Dhand is a prominent feature of the Banni grassland.

B. The Banni grassland of Rajasthan is the second largest natural grassland in the Indian subcontinent.

Choose the correct option:

A. A only

B. B only

C. Both A and B

D. Neither A nor B

Correct Answer: A

Mains Questions:

Q.1) Indian companies are unable to hold their own against the Chinese in the content-centric app market. Give your arguments in this regard of this statement.

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