Time and TikTok

Despite being utterly obsessed with TikTok, I hadn’t noticed this, per Wired’s Louise Matsakis:

Unlike other social media platforms, TikTok is totally stripped of information like when a video was uploaded or the date a user opened their account. The app presents an endless stream of algorithmically chosen videos, which you swipe through vertically. But there’s no way to discern when any of them were posted. Tap on a user’s profile, and their videos will appear in reverse chronological order, but only display view counts. Sites like Facebook and Twitter prioritize recently uploaded content. But TikTok, named after the sound a clock makes, has no time for time itself—a decision that ripples across the entire platform.

Even your device’s clock is hidden when you use the app – a nod, I reckon, to the famous Las Vegas strategy of hiding all the clocks so people don’t realise how long they’ve been playing.

The mechanisms behind the world’s hottest new social network are fascinating, but difficult to understand – even for Mark Zuckerberg. In TechCrunch, Josh Constine reflects on Zuckerberg’s take (obtained via audio leaked to The Verge) that TikTok is “almost like the Explore Tab that we have on Instagram”:

TikTok isn’t about you or what you’re doing. It’s about entertaining your audience. It’s not spontaneous chronicling of your real life. It’s about inventing characters, dressing up as someone else and acting out jokes. It’s not about privacy and friends, but strutting on the world stage. And it’s not about originality — the heart of Instagram. TikTok is about remixing culture — taking the audio from someone else’s clip and reimagining the gag in a new context by layering it atop a video you record.

I chatted with Paul Blanchard about this recently, on the Media Masters podcast. My view is that TikTok is the first social network (since, er, Deviant Art?) to reward creativity over everything else. It makes for some incredibly imaginative content. One big takeaway: kids are masterful video editors.