Besides Douyin, it runs two other video apps, Xigua and Huoshan. Its news aggregator, Jinri Toutiao, was its first blockbuster in China and remains a major platform. It is building up its video game and music divisions. It has an e-book app, shopping apps, online learning services, a car buying site, a cloud services platform and an office productivity suite.
“ByteDance has always been very, very enamored with Amazon,” said Rui Ma, an investor and China tech analyst. It and other Chinese internet companies respect “the fact that Amazon can dominate in multiple things,” she said. “It’s also helped by the fact that Jeff Bezos is the richest man on earth.”
In China, ByteDance could still try to use Douyin, which has an estimated 300 million daily users, to herd more people toward its other products — those education apps, for instance.
“Their core user demographic spends eight to 12 hours a day on education, and there are not many large competitors with internet-first business models,” said Turner Novak, a general partner at Gelt Venture Capital who has studied ByteDance’s rise.
Video game companies are big advertisers on Douyin and TikTok, Mr. Novak noted, which suggests that ByteDance could make lots of money by advertising its own games on those platforms as well.
Conquering online retail might be trickier. ByteDance is already trying to turn Douyin into a mobile-age Home Shopping Network, a place where kindly-looking people entrance viewers into buying things. Not everyone is convinced.
“E-commerce is not only about traffic,” said Shawn Yang, an analyst in Shenzhen with the investment bank Blue Lotus Capital Advisors. “E-commerce is also about service, about product quality, about logistics, payments. The whole process is very long, which means that it’s not as easy as online gaming or advertising.”