TikTok makes a bold and daring leap into... web pages

With Jump, creators on TikTok can send their viewers to HTML 5 web pages outside the app, like a recipe list or restaurant reservation page.

CAIRO, Dec. 1, 2020 -- Photo taken on Dec, 1, 2020 shows a mobile phone running the TikTok app in Ca...
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TikTok has introduced a new tool called Jump, which allows creators on the video-sharing platform to enhance their videos by attaching “mini-programs” that direct viewers to another experience outside the app, like a cooking recipe list or a quiz on BuzzFeed.

Jump isn’t as simple as attaching a link to a video, though. Partner companies need to build support for it, but TikTok says doing so requires “minimal technical integration.” Early partners on the program include Wikipedia, Quizlet, and StatMuse, with more on the way... but we’re not convinced about the nomenclature.

Even though TikTok is referring to Jumps as mini-programs, they’re really just HTML5-based webpages. A website describing Jump shows users can add a Jump to their videos by searching through the available providers and then choosing a page from that provider they’d like to attach, like a specific recipe from cooking app Whisk. A button will appear on their video that says something like, “View the full recipe,” and clicking on it opens a web embed.

Advocates of the open web will surely look at this with validation as it turns out that, shocker, the open web is pretty useful. Today much of the internet lives behind siloed apps, but the web as a standard remains much more accessible and adaptable. Links to pages just work, portions of webpages can be embedded in other webpages, etc. TikTok hasn’t exactly reinvented the wheel with Jump.

Commerce — Either way, Jump is not a surprising addition to TikTok at all. The company has been pushing hard into e-commerce as a new avenue to make money, and Jump could give brands an easy way to send viewers outside the app to complete a transaction. That would make the platform a more compelling place to buy advertisements.

This move into e-commerce also comes as Apple is tightening the screws on advertising-based businesses by making it harder to track the activity of iOS users. If commerce is happening inside TikTok, that gives the company useful data that Apple cannot block. Facebook has similarly said it would double down on in-app commerce. If users are buying products inside Instagram, Facebook can come to understand what types of things they like that way, without needing to see what they’re doing on websites and apps outside of its purview.

Lots of money in e-commerce — TikTok, for its part, already generates billions of dollars in revenue from e-commerce in China, where its localized version called Duoyin began offering in-app commerce a year ago.

There’s no word that TikTok will use Jump for commerce, but it’s easy to see how a company like Target might someday pay creators to add a “Shop at Target” link to their videos. In the same way creators on Instagram can meet and sign sponsorships with brands directly through the app.