ByteDance, the creator of hugely popular short-video apps Douyin and TikTok, is reportedly internally testing a new news aggregation social app called Shiqu.

Why it matters: Unlike ByteDance’s other more popular offerings that rely on algorithm-based recommendations, Shiqu offers an algorithm-driven news feed that also allows customized RSS imports. The app looks to target well-educated readers, judging by screenshots of the test versions reported by the Chinese outlet iFranr

  • The new app could put ByteDance in competition with other Chinese apps that focus on creating a thinking community, such as the social and review platform Douban and Quora-like Zhihu. 

Details: Shiqu has two main features: topic-based reading boards and discussion groups, similar to Flipboard plus Reddit. Users can subscribe to their favorite topics or accounts, which routinely offer new content. The app’s other main feature offers a Reddit-like community, where users can join or create new groups related to specific topics and start discussion threads, according to the iFanr report. 

  • The app was first reported by the Chinese media outlet Tech Xingqiu in January. The outlet said the app is invite-only and selects high-quality content from ByteDance’s news aggregator Jinri Toutiao. At the time of publication, the app still hasn’t been opened for public registrations.
  • ByteDance declined to comment on the app when reached by TechNode on Wednesday.

Context: ByteDance first won mainstream success with a Chinese news aggregator called Jinri Toutiao, a mobile-first app that curates news based on algorithms. Shiqu looks to be catering to a more sophisticated user base that wants a customized reading experience and communities to discuss ideas. That target puts Shiqu in competition with established players like Douban.

  • First launched in 2005 as a website, Douban is known as the spiritual home of Chinese hipsters. It is a book and movie review site with robust group discussion features,  akin to a combination of Goodreads, Rotten Tomatoes, and Reddit.
  • Douban has received increased attention from Chinese regulators since late last year, prompting the platform to close certain groups and implement stricter oversight of users’ posts.
  • ByteDance is not the only Chinese tech company vying for a Douban-like user base. Last week, Douban sued Twitter-like Weibo for imitating its community content, including copying group names and approaching Douban community leaders to work for Weibo.
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Ward Zhou

Ward Zhou is a tech reporter based in Shanghai. He covers stories about industry of digital content, hardware, and anything geek. Reach him via ward.zhou[a] or Twitter @zhounanyu.