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

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2:46 AM HKT, Fri September 27, 2019 1 mins read

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.


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.

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