The TikTok soap opera rolls on in the US, with a weekend of plot twists and cliffhangers edging the social app towards some kind of resolution. And that resolution won’t be a sale to Microsoft, as that company admitted in a blog post overnight.
“ByteDance let us know today they would not be selling TikTok’s US operations to Microsoft. We are confident our proposal would have been good for TikTok’s users, while protecting national security interests,” explained Microsoft, adding a somewhat salty kiss-off.
“To do this, we would have made significant changes to ensure the service met the highest standards for security, privacy, online safety, and combatting disinformation, and we made these principles clear in our August statement. We look forward to seeing how the service evolves in these important areas.”
That leaves one tech giant standing: Oracle, although it seems this won’t be an acquisition after all. The Washington Post reported that TikTok’s owner will still be Chinese firm ByteDance, but that Oracle will be its US “technology partner” handling its cloud data management.
This ties in with reports in the Chinese media. The South China Morning Post reported yesterday that ByteDance “will not sell or transfer the algorithm behind the popular video-sharing app in any sale or divestment deal”, with one source suggesting that “the car can be sold, but not the engine”. State media outlet CGTN also reported that “ByteDance will not sell TikTok’s US operations to Microsoft or Oracle, nor will the company give the source code to any US buyers.”
So, what now? Well, this depends on the reaction of President Trump and his administration to the idea of an Oracle tech partnership, where neither TikTok’s car nor its engine will be sold to a US company, which also means no cut for the administration as Trump had requested. Whether the Oracle compromise is a good idea or not may be secondary to whether it’s seen by the president and his inner circle as a loss of face.
In the meantime, business goes on for TikTok elsewhere in the world. This morning, it announced a milestone in Europe: more than 100 million active users, matching its total in the US. In a blog post, its general manager for Europe, Rich Waterworth, also revealed that TikTok now has more than 1,600 staff in Europe, and that more than 40% of eligible creators have signed up for the company’s new €250m Creator Fund.
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