TikTok algorithms work because of a lot of data

December 7, 2021


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Ben Smith for The New York Times got an internal document that outlines TikTok’s recommendation system. This quote caught my eye:

Julian McAuley, a professor of computer science at the University of California San Diego, who also reviewed the document, said in an email that the paper was short on detail about how exactly TikTok does its predictions, but that the description of its recommendation engine is “totally reasonable, but traditional stuff.” The company’s edge, he said, comes from combining machine learning with “fantastic volumes of data, highly engaged users, and a setting where users are amenable to consuming algorithmically recommended content (think how few other settings have all of these characteristics!). Not some algorithmic magic.”