With just a few days to spare, the drama around TikTok’s fate in the US has suddenly gotten intense again. TikTok would have been banned from the US Tuesday had it not found a buyer of the popular short-video social platform and that buyer was expected to be Microsoft. In an almost strange twist of events, Microsoft has announced that TikTok owner ByteDance would not be selling it to the software giant and sources claim it was because Oracle had a better offer.
Discussions about TikTok’s fate in the US flared up again in the past few days when China practically threw negotiations under a bus. Its own new export rules would restrict the sale of algorithms and artificial intelligence technology, the likes of which were used by TikTok to determine which videos were presented to users. That technology was supposedly part of any acquisition deal until China cast doubt over that possibility.
That may have made the deal less interesting to Microsoft but it seems that it was ByteDance itself that pulled out of negotiations. Microsoft’s official statement didn’t mention the reason but an insider provided what could be the biggest clue. The source claimed that Oracle won the bid but it might exactly because it offered more money upfront.
The deal would allegedly present Oracle as a “trusted tech partner” in the US, painting it as something that isn’t an outright buy. Whether internal transactions really make it an acquisition anyway is something only the two companies might know. It could shape public perception for or against the move, especially considering Oracle has zero experience handling any social media platform, except perhaps on the backend.
The big question right now is whether such a reframing of the acquisition will fly by US President Donald Trump who may be aiming for a bigger show of power. He might, however, be a bit more satisfied if the deal includes even bigger funds for the US Treasury than Microsoft and ByteDance may have been willing to give concede.