The World's Most Innovative Companies 2018
Founded in 2012, Bytedance is a technology company that specializes in the use of artificial intelligence to link people with large amounts of information. The company's flagship app, Toutiao, offers a personalized ranking of news, videos, and content from thousands of media outlets and millions of users and updates them in real time based on a user’s actions—what she clicks on, completes, and comments upon. This works automagically without having to create a profile. “This is a new platform to connect people with information,” says Ma Weiying, the head of Bytedance’s AI Research Lab. Toutiao utilizes AI technologies and strategies like data mining and user behavior analysis to connect its customers with customized advertising campaigns. In 2017, Toutiao grew from a reported 70 million daily users to 120 million, who spend an average of 74 minutes a day in the app. Bytedance utilizes AI in its content-creation tools as well. Tik Tok, its music-video creation tool, simplifies editing by suggesting cuts and AI-generated special effects to improve the production value. Bytedance has spent the last year-plus acquiring and investing in apps around the world where its AI can improve the experience, from U.S.-based Flipagram and Musically to Europe’s News Republic. “High-quality content created in other countries can benefit a lot of our users,” says Weiying. In January 2018, Bytedance made a deal to distribute BuzzFeed content across its apps. Toutiao also has a geo-location-based push notification system called “Missing Person Alert," which has helped locate a number of missing people by producing visual details to the app’s users in different locations.