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TikTok founder ByteDance closes down overseas news aggregator TopBuzz

ByteDance, the founder of the globally successful short-video app TikTok, has closed down its artificial-intelligence-based news aggregator TopBuzz, one of the company’s earliest global stage products.

ByteDance said in a statement on Friday “We’re proud of the work that we accomplished with TopBuzz, but (we) have determined that other areas of the business should be our priority going forward.”

The closing down of TopBuzz demonstrates how ByteDance’s ventures into the international markets have not been entirely smooth despite TikTok’s popularity.

Launched in 2015, TopBuzz was the global counterpart to Chinese news aggregator Jinri Toutiao, meaning “Today’s Headlines”, which was one of the first hits of Beijing-based ByteDance. The app recommends customised news stories based on its AI-driven algorithms to users with different interests.

However, TopBuzz was not as successful as the later TikTok app.

According to researcher Sensor Tower, TopBuzz’s downloads dropped to 1.2 million in the first half of 2019 from 7 million in all of 2018 on the App Store, and Google Play combined. In the first half of 2019, TikTok had 345.2 million downloads.

Last year, TopBuzz started shrinking its operations, according to two sources familiar with the matter. The app used to have multiple language operations, including Spanish and Portuguese, said one of the sources. But now the website only offers English and Japanese versions.

ByteDance is reportedly under a U.S. national security probe into TikTok’s handling of user data and is also facing increased scrutiny from regulators around the world.

TopBuzz’s tepid success has not stopped Chinese entrepreneurs from launching global news apps.

News Break, founded in 2015 by Yahoo alumnus Zheng Zhaohui and backed by Chinese investors, has been ranked as the number one news and magazine app in the U.S. on Google Play by usage over the past 28 days, followed by Twitter and Reddit, according to app performance tracker SimilarWeb.

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