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[color=rgb(49,]An Indian internet celebrity livestreams her daily life. /VCG Photo
The controversy surrounding the global rise of TikTok highlights the central challenge that China-originated video apps may face as they make further inroads into foreign markets. Video apps are, at their core, cultural products and may be subject to cultural clashes, said Zhang Yi, CEO of iiMedia Research Group.
A greater degree of localization in funding and business operation would help mitigate some of the concerns foreign users have with Chinese apps, he added. For example, among video apps originated from China, many are already backed by international investors, including TikTok. Their overseas offices are staffed by local hires, instead of being dominated by Chinese nationals.
Whether or not these video apps can develop a sustainable monetization model is critical to their future business, said Zhang Mengmeng, research analyst at Counterpoint, a market research company. While video apps in the Chinese domestic market are using embedded ads and e-commerce to drive profit, millennials, many of whom are target users of China-originated video apps abroad, do not have much spending power.
The success of Chinese video apps prompted many foreign tech behemoths to launch products with similar features. Facebook tried Lasso, a short video app very similar to TikTok. As of November 2019, the app still ranked over 100 in terms of free app downloads, far behind TikTok. In Southeast Asia, apps created by homegrown companies are also quickly gaining traction among users.
Local companies still have the potential of challenging China-originated video apps, Zhang from iiMedia cautioned. Chinese apps are now enjoying their first-mover advantage, but it cannot last forever.
At the same time, there are many more Chinese video apps that aspire to take over the global markets.