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What’s Oracle? TikTok users react to proposed Oracle deal

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As business software giant Oracle tries to become “a trusted technology provider” for social media phenomenon TikTok, users of the app shared a similar reaction: Oracle who?

Oracle, the enterprise software company, confirmed on Monday that it was part of a high-profile bid for TikTok, which was facing a looming deadline imposed by the U.S. government to sell. The U.S. and China still have to confirm the deal, which stops short of an actual sale, before the it can be completed.

The agreement has some industry analysts scratching their heads. Why would a legacy enterprise software company chase TikTok, a social media app made popular by teens who create viral dance challenges? The answer has some analysts speculating that Oracle wants to serve as TikTok’s cloud data center provider. Meanwhile, half a dozen TikTokers interviewed said they knew little to nothing about Oracle, known for its very unhip database software.

“I heard about Oracle [for the first time] literally yesterday,” said Chelsea Dagrella, a 21-year-old TikToker from Syracuse, NY. 

Kara Billington, a 16-year-old TikTok user from Richardson, Tex., said she wasn’t sure what Oracle does, but the name sounded familiar. “It’s a big company,” she said. “I really don’t know too much about it though.” 

TikTok’s proposed deal comes just days before the Sept. 20 deadline imposed by President Donald Trump. Citing national security concerns, Trump said TikTok’s owner ByteDance, based in China, needed to sell the app or shutter its U.S. operations. Since then, the app received bids from big companies including Microsoft and Walmart as well as Oracle. However, the final proposal involving Oracle falls short of a sale, and it’s unclear whether it will be enough to appease the White’s House or pass muster with China’s government.

In a statement, Oracle provided few details about the proposed TikTok partnership. It merely said that “Oracle has a 40-year track record providing secure, highly performant technology solutions.”

For TikTok, the proposed deal potentially means the company can continue operating in the U.S. TikTok is also expected to establish a U.S.-based headquarters, where it would employ 20,000 people. For Oracle, the deal adds a big-name company to its roster of “partners”.

But for TikTokers, the deal means next to nothing. Users say they just want to be able to continue creating and watching video clips featuring users lip synching, dancing, and doing short comedy skits. 

“If it continues being the same, then it’s fine,” said Diana Terrazas, a 19-year-old TikTok user in Dallas who spends hours every day watching new videos. 

Many TikTokers echoed the sentiment. For them, their concern boiled down to the user experience. They want the app’s algorithms to continue to recommend videos based on their interests, to help boost the videos they make, and to steer clear from filling their feeds with ads (or pitches for business software).

Kathryn Baxter, a 16-year-old from Richardson, said TikTok is a service she uses to connect with her peers, knowing that she will be able to relate to others’ videos and not be judged by her responses. She said if Oracle or any new owner changed TikTok, it would be “big” and could potentially change the organic feeling of community that the app has created.

Billington, who attends school with Baxter, said she would continue using TikTok regardless of its owner “as long they don’t change it and turn it into Instagram,” a TikTok rival. And Dagrella said as long as TikTok “is there, I’m there.”

But some of TikTok’s influencers say they know how fickle social media can be. Even though they make money off the service through sponsorships and donations from fans, they make sure not to get too attached. Instead, they use it to amplify other projects that help them make money. They just hope Oracle, whatever it is, and whatever its deal involves, doesn’t get in the way.

For example, Drew Ryn, a 23-year-old singer from Nashville who was once on Fox show The X Factor, said she uses TikTok to help boost her profile as a musician. She has amassed 1.7 million followers on TikTok since joining last year. Unlike some of the others interviewed, she had heard of Oracle before and had a vague idea about what it does.

“I have heard of Oracle, but I’m not an expert,” Ryn said. “I think it will be better for privacy, but what that means for content creation or algorithms or our clout, I don’t know.”

Meanwhile, Cody Orlove said TikTok helped him build a career and that he doesn’t care about Oracle getting involved. The 19-year-old from Los Angeles posts comedy videos, skits, and re-enacts scenes from Netflix shows. At age 14, he realized he could make money on the app and dropped out of high school to dedicate himself to the app and other side ventures. Orlove has 6.5 million followers and said he’s made $2 million in the past three years. 

Though he still regularly uses TikTok, he also now sells merchandise and tours with fellow influencers.

“Influencers only have three to four years,” of fame on social media, he said. “So I’ve been trying to make my biggest revenue stream not be social media. It’s very unpredictable.”

Olivia Ghaussy got a taste of how quickly anyone can build a following on social media. The 35-year-old nurse practitioner who lives in Los Angeles, joined in June and already has more than 20,000 followers (one of her videos went viral). 

As a result, she knows she’ll always have a way to reach people who want to follow her, even if TikTok becomes unrecognizable because of any Oracle partnership.

“There’s always another app waiting in the wings,” she said.

More must-read tech coverage from Fortune:

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  • China’s top chipmaker could be Trump’s next target in the trade war
  • Fortune’s 2020 40 Under 40
  • Commentary: The race for a COVID-19 vaccine shows the power of “community intelligence”

Danielle Abril


2020-09-14 20:30:25


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