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The Hidden Forces Behind Toutiao: China’s Content King

· Toutiao,Bytedance,Deep Learning,Y Combinator,Editor's Desk

Toutiao, one of the flagship products of Bytedance, may be the largest app you’ve never heard of–it’s like every news feed you read, YouTube, and TechMeme in one. Over 120M people in China use it each day. Yet what’s most interesting about Toutiao isn’t that people consume such varied content all in one place… it’s how Toutiao serves it up. Without any explicit user inputs, social graph, or product purchase history to rely on, Toutiao offers a personalized, high quality-content feed for each user that is powered by machine and deep learning algorithms.

Toutiao launched in 2012. The app uses machine and deep learning algorithms to source and surface content that users will find most interesting. Toutiao’s underlying technology learns about readers through their usage – taps, swipes, time spent on each article, time of the day the user reads, pauses, comments, interactions with the content and location – but doesn’t require any explicit input from the user and is not built on their social graph. Today, each user is measured across millions of dimensions and the result is a personalized, extensive, and high-quality content feed for every user, each time they open the app.

This article was originally published by Anu Hariharan on October 12, 2017 via Y Combinator.