ByteDance Ltd. is a multinational internet technology company headquartered in Beijing and legally domiciled in the Cayman Islands. It was founded by Zhang Yiming in 2012. ByteDance is reportedly worth over US$100 billion as of May 2020.
ByteDance's core product, Toutiao ("Headlines"), is a content platform in China and around the world. Toutiao started out as a news recommendation engine and gradually evolved into a platform delivering content in various formats, such as texts, images, question-and-answer posts, microblogs, and videos.
ByteDance is the developer of the video-sharing social networking services and apps TikTok and Douyin, the Chinese-specific counterpart to TikTok. On November 9, 2017, ByteDance acquired Shanghai-based social media start-up Musical.ly for up to US$1 billion. They combined it with TikTok on August 2, 2018 into a single global application, keeping the TikTok name.
As of November 2018, ByteDance had over 800 million daily active users (over 1 billion accumulated users) across all of its content platforms. The company was valued at $78 billion and is considered one of the most valuable unicorns in the world. As with many Chinese companies, the company has an internal Chinese Communist Party committee serving the party members among the employees, with vice president Zhang Fuping serving as its Party Committee Secretary. It also has a strategic partnership with the Ministry of Public Security for the ministry's public relations efforts, and joint ventures with a state-run publisher in Beijing and media firm in Shanghai. ByteDance is backed by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, SoftBank Group, Sequoia Capital, General Atlantic, and Hillhouse Capital Group. It has garnered public attention over allegations that it worked with the Chinese Communist Party to censor and surveil content pertaining to Xinjiang re-education camps and other topics the Party deemed controversial.
On 19 May 2020, ByteDance and Disney released an announcement that Kevin Mayer, head of Disney's streaming business, would join ByteDance. From June 2020 to his resignation 26 August 2020, Mayer served as the CEO of TikTok and the COO of ByteDance, reporting directly to the company CEO Zhang Yiming.
On 3 August 2020, U.S. president Donald Trump set September 15 as the deadline for TikTok, a social media app under ByteDance, to find a US buyer, and he then issued executive orders that would effectively ban TikTok from operating in the country if it's not sold by ByteDance within 45 days. Then at 12:40 PM of August 3, Beijing local time, ByteDance founder Zhang Yiming sent out an all-staff letter in response to the potential sale of TikTok's US operations.
On 7 August 2020, ByteDance released a statement in response to the executive order banning US companies and individuals from doing business with it, threatening to resort to the American justice system in order to get "fair treatment." On 14 August 2020, Trump issued an executive order mandating that ByteDance divest from all U.S. operations of TikTok within 90 days. On 28 August 2020, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce and the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology announced that any sale of ByteDance's technology to foreign firms is a matter of "national security" and would require prior approval.