Douyin: the Chinese Version of TikTok. How Are They Different?

Despite being broadly the same app, Douyin and TikTok have several differences. We tell you more about it.

Cell phone with the Doujin application

Photo: Latin American Post

LatinAmerican Post | July Vanesa López Romero

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Leer en español: Douyin: la versión china de TikTok, ¿en qué se diferencian?

Surely you know or have heard of the TikTok platform. With around one billion and fifty-one million active users, this is one of the largest and most important social networks today. Perhaps what you didn't know is that TikTok has a Chinese version called Douyin, and that this is basically its twin separated at birth.

In mid-2016, the technology company ByteDance announced the launch of an app that would conquer the short video market, which had been led by Vine for only a couple of years. ByteDance kept its promise and in September of the same year Douyin came out. Its reception was unique, and it went on to lead a market that until then seemed to have no future. Thanks to its success in China, in 2017 its western version was released in most international markets and in 2018, when it merged with Musical.ly, it became available worldwide.

Also read: Why is the United States declaring war on TikTok?

How Is Douyin Different from TikTok?

Although in essence they are the same, Douyin and TikTok do have differences. Here we tell you which are the most significant.

  • Firstly, Douyin can only be downloaded in China, which TikTok cannot, which is only available in foreign countries. This implies that the applications do not share users or data, so if you come to look for a Douyin user on TikTok, you will not find him. Douyin content is exclusive to China. In addition, the data of the Chinese version is stored in the Asian country, while that of TikTok is not. For example, US data is stored in Virginia and backed up in Singapore.

  • On the other hand, while active users on TikTok are mostly young people between the ages of 18 and 25, on Douyin they are of all ages. At the end of 2020, it was reported that 41.5% of its users are people over 30 years of age.

  • One of the biggest differences between the two applications is that TikTok is mostly used for entertainment purposes, while Douyin has much more educational content and is also associated with e-commerce. In the Chinese version, it is possible to make sales and purchases through e-commerce platforms such as Taobao or Jingdong. Even this can be done via Live.

While these are some of the biggest differences between the two platforms, there is one that draws attention not only from users, but also from the international political community.

Douyin and TikTok, Between Censorship and Misuse of Data

The fact that Douyin is only available for download and use within Chinese territory is intrinsically related to censorship by the Chinese government. The Chinese Communist Party, the current ruler, has been very strict about the type of content that is allowed on high-reach media and social networks. In fact, there is an Internet police that is in charge of deleting all content related to criticism of the current government or that could contribute to the destabilization of politics in China. In this sense, censorship not only works as a method to avoid actions or comments against the government, but also to make propaganda in the background.

TikTok does not apply the same censorship because the platform is governed by the guidelines and regulations of each country, but around it there are concerns about the use of data and the risk that the privacy of its users may be. The international community has expressed concern that the data collected by TikTok could be used by the Chinese Communist Party. Currently, in the United States, bills are being advanced in all states to ban TikTok as of 2024. Likewise, in the European Union, public officials are prohibited from using the application on their work phones.