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Techilicious: Is time TikToking out on online creativity in India?

The controversy around the content-generating platform is not only unnecessary, but it is downright dangerous

brunch Updated: May 11, 2019 19:59 IST
Rajiv Makhni
Rajiv Makhni
Hindustan Times
Online creativity,TikTok,Musical.ly
This app restricts you to showcase a video in 15 seconds or less, and you move from one video to another at the speed of light

There are two kinds of people in this world. Those that know and use TikTok and those that don’t. And with all the recent happenings, a very large number has moved from the latter section to the former. With a recent high court ban on downloading the app, now removed (a very strange one, but more on that later), the app made more headlines than ever before. More people became aware of it, making it one of the top apps being downloaded in the country. So what is it, why are people getting millions of views, why is it controversial and how can you become the next superstar on it? Well, you’ve come to the right place as I have all the answers. I’m also doing this column as I have very strong opinions on bans and curtailment of online content and messaging platforms – so pay attention. I may ask questions later.

What is it?

It was called Musical.ly earlier, became a sensation, was rebranded as TikTok and went on to become a global viral hit. So much so, that it’s the number one downloaded app in many countries and has more than 200 million users in India alone. Its parent company, ByteDance, is one of the most valuable start-ups in the world now.

Why is it such a hit?

TikTok is hyper dynamic. Open the app and you’re sucked into a world of extreme creativity. It restricts you to showcase a video in 15 seconds or less. No set up, no opening, no build up. And you move from one video to another at the speed of light. Music dubs, singers, comedians, sketch artists, raw talent, performers – each gets 15 seconds of stage time and then it’s off to the next one.

Use everything from beauty mode and multiple filters to make your videos fun

It’s all user generated content thus making superstars of undiscovered talent from across the country. The tagline says ‘make every second count’ and that’s literally what happens. If you have five minutes of free time, then you’ll be entertained at an exhilarating pace.

Why was it banned?

First, the word ‘banned’ is wrong. TikTok got ‘taken off’. The Madras High Court curtailed its download and it had to be taken off the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. Technically, the 200 million users in India who already had it on their phones kept using it. The reason it got taken off creates a huge problem. The objection was that “addiction to TikTok app, and similar apps, or cyber games” and the content they showcase was detrimental to users. That opens up a can of worms. Section 79 of the Information Technology Act in India provides protection to online mediums and platforms in that they cannot be held accountable for any content or message posted on their platform. If such a ban was to come into play, then Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp should have been obliterated off the face of this earth long back. It’s important to keep online platforms free of the burden of one person’s viewpoint. Banning apps like TikTok sets a bad precedent.

What about content?

TikTok is a content-generating platform. And as it forces you to showcase it in 15 seconds, it forces real creativity. That’s why there’s such diverse talent and all kinds of content on TikTok. It has some serious security and filter technology built in that can keep you and a younger audience safe. Age limits, screen time management, a restricted mode to protect minors, parental control, in-app reporting and a very robust privacy setting.

So how do I become the next TikTok Superstar?

This is where it gets exciting. Set up your account and record your first video. Add a song (you have thousands of certified songs available) or do your own thing, you can change the colour of your hair or eyes, use augmented reality special effects like a giant pizza or other very quirky options, get your pet to be part of a skit as there are special effects for cats and dogs. Then there is beauty mode and multiple filters. Use the duet button and sing a song in split screen or try out a quick choreography routine or skit with a friend. The most fun of course is to take TikTok Challenges. Remember, keep it short – keep it super entertaining.

That’s pretty much it – you’re on your way to your first million hits. Send me the link to your first video. I promise to follow you and make you a superstar!

Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV, and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3

Techilicious appears every fortnight

From HT Brunch, May 12, 2019

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First Published: May 11, 2019 18:48 IST