The takeover of parts of TikTok by Microsoft is not only politically explosive. As an analysis shows, the company would have to go to great lengths to overcome technical hurdles within the tight timeframe set by US President Trump.
The technical hurdles to the TikTok takeover can hardly be overcome
President Trump has given Microsoft until September 15 to finalize a possible takeover of parts of TikTok. In addition to the economic aspects that make a takeover very difficult in such a short period of time, the Redmond-based company also faces major technical hurdles. As Reuters reports, the “clean break that Trump and lawmakers are envisioning” could take more than a year to complete.
The problem: TikTok is technically a modification of the Douyin app, which is only available in China. The developer ByteDance is said to have begun a “technological separation” of the applications several months ago in the face of the political conflicts between China and the USA but has not yet progressed very far. As the source explains to the news agency, the server code in particular continues to be shared between the ByteDance products.
“To ensure an uninterrupted TikTok service, Microsoft would probably have to fall back on the code from ByteDance, while it checks and revises the code,” Reuters quoted security expert Ryan Speers. This technical dependency is “unacceptable” for the responsible Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which would monitor the takeovers.
Separation becomes difficult
Another problem: TikTok’s service stands or falls with the user data, on the basis of which the company makes its recommendations for the central “For you” page. “Algorithms are worthless without the data,” said Jim DuBois, a former chief information officer at Microsoft. “The segmentation of the data for different countries is a considerable task,” is DuBois’ assessment. “The biggest challenge is the separation of user data – both content and data about the users”. All of these hurdles hardly seem to be overcome in the given time frame. It will be very interesting to see how the plans for the takeover will develop.