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Daily Drip

TikTok’s New “Video Search” Function is From the Future

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The way we consume media has been changing rapidly, over and over, for like a decade. And as the nature of media consumption changes, so too must the dexterous hand of capitalism, with its long fingers of advertisers, and those dirty unclipped fingernails of new media-based revenue models.

Clunky, extended analogies aside, the developers over at TikTok seem to be innovating some impressive new strategies to engage users and make money through social media: they’ve just released an “in-video search tool”, the power of which is both exciting and terrifying.

Users on TikTok (or Douyin in Chinese) can now simply press the “Search” button mid-video, drag a rectangle around the target area, and instantly perform a visual search for the area’s contents.

If you select someone’s face, the app will show you a list of other videos that they appear in. If you select a shirt someone is wearing, the app will do its best to locate that shirt on an e-commerce site.

Related:

How Douyin (TikTok) Became the Most Popular App in the World

It’s not the first time we’ve seen “visual search engines” — Google lets you search for instances of a chosen picture that appear on the internet, and online marketplace Taobao lets you upload a picture in order to search for a product. But TikTok’s new search capabilities go one step further, taking the viewer directly from the video to a deeper destination of content/purchase.

The feature is currently still in the testing phase, and it’s only available on the Chinese version of the app — but ostensibly, the new capability will appear on international versions of TikTok sometime soon.

Adan Kohnhorst
Adan Kohnhorst is a Shanghai-based writer, producer, and multimedia artist, and the Associate Editor at RADII. His work has been featured in publications such as Maxim and the Chinese-language StreetVoice, and he’s an active member of the hip-hop and DIY music scenes in Shanghai, NYC, and Dallas. He learned Mandarin in high school so he could train at the Shaolin Temple, but now just uses it to interview rappers.