Updated Microsoft has revealed ByteDance, owner of TikTok, has declined to sell its social media app's US operations to the software giant.
“ByteDance let us know today they would not be selling TikTok’s US operations to Microsoft,” the Windows goliath said in a brief Sunday memo.
“We are confident our proposal would have been good for TikTok’s users, while protecting national security interests,” the note continued, adding that Microsoft planned “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.”
Microsoft confirms pursuit of TikTok after Satya Nadella chats to Donald TrumpREAD MORE
Microsoft signed off its blog post with: “We look forward to seeing how the service evolves in these important areas." Meow. In other words: we tried to make TikTok non-evil and that didn't work out; best of luck to whoever picks it up.
It is understood Microsoft also intended to acquire a copy of TikTok's AI technology and algorithms, including the code that produces its crucial For You page, which ByteDance refused to hand over, preempting the Chinese government's unwillingness to provide the know-how to a US corporation.
President Donald Trump set a deadline of September 15 for TikTok's US wing to either be sold to an, ideally, American company or shut down its operations in the nation.
Trump also called for all-American security of the highest order to be brought into TikTok because he asserts the made-in-China social network creates national security risks by collecting consumer data – which is deeply ironic given that Microsoft has experience as a steward of consumer data across many properties.
The remaining American company known to be interested in acquiring TikTok, Oracle, has less experience of doing so and almost no consumer business. Oracle does, however, offer marketing software that would become more potent if infused with the records of millions of TikTok users. Oracle also has little or no experience handling the kinds of controversies that erupt endlessly on social media platforms.
Last week, for example, a suicide video in which a man blew his head off with a shotgun circulated widely on TikTok. The footage led to calls for tighter moderation and protection of young users of the social network.
ByteDance and TikTok have not made any statements about the sale at the time of writing. Nor has Oracle. The Register will update this story if more information becomes available. ®
Updated to add
The Wall Street Journal reports Oracle will become ByteDance's "trusted technology partner" in the USA for hosting the social media app, though Big Red won't actually buy TikTok. It's being speculated that "technology partner" means Oracle will host TikTok in its US cloud though not operate the service. Such an arrangement would probably satisfy Oracle as it loves showing off its high-profile cloud clients, perhaps because its doesn't have many customers beyond users of its applications and database.
It's also a little weird because Microsoft wasn't allowed to be TikTok's tech partner, and was pressured into buying the app's US operations outright, though Oracle – overseen by Trump-supporting Larry Ellison – will be allowed to be TikTok's cloud partner in the States. Hm!