On Friday, the Trump administration announced a ban on the distribution of TikTok and WeChat apps starting Sept. 20, and piled on even more restrictions on the latter.
Predictably, the news has only created a surge in questions as to what exactly the ban means and how it will play out. Here’s what we know, for now:
–It’s not an outright ban of the two apps…yet. The Department of Commerce announced that users will be prohibited from newly downloading and updating WeChat and TikTok through mobile app stores starting Sept. 20.
–The administration is cracking down harder on WeChat than TikTok this time. In addition to the above, the department has also banned domestic payments processing and fund transferrals on WeChat starting Sept. 20. And it’s forbidding “any provision of internet hosting services” as well as “any provision of content delivery network services” that may enable WeChat’s mobile app functioning in the U.S. Which is… a lot of jargon.
–WeChat is effectively being shut down, according to the administration. While it’s still unclear what exactly all the restrictions mean in terms of functionality for WeChat users, “WeChat U.S. for all practical purposes will be shut down,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told Fox Business on Friday.
–The deadline for TikTok to find a deal that satisfies regulators seems to have been extended. The new Commerce Department announcement pushes the broad ban of the short-form video app until Nov. 12, seemingly giving the company until then to come together with a deal that satisfies regulators. On Nov. 12, however, the same restrictions that WeChat now faces will also hit TikTok, per the announcement. Which is…going to be interesting as the U.S. presidential elections are scheduled for Nov. 3.
Meanwhile, TikTok owner ByteDance and Oracle are sketching out plans to keep regulators happy and the company alive in the U.S., including a proposal to push U.S. investor ownership of a new TikTok entity over 50%. Oh, and ByteDance may seek to list TikTok Global on a U.S. exchange to address concerns about its Chinese ownership. And wait! We’re not done yet: TikTok has also considered Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom for CEO.
THE BUY-NOW-PAY-LATER BOOM: Affirm, a fintech startup that offers online installment plans on furniture and other goods, raised $500 million in Series G funding, the company revealed Thursday. GIC and Durable Capital Partners led the round, and were joined by investors including Durable Capital Partners, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Wellington Management Company, Baillie Gifford, Spark Capital, Founders Fund, and Fidelity Management & Research Company. With a repeat founder at its helm (Max Levchin, who co-founded PayPal), Affirm sits in a business that has been attracting hordes of funding. Recently, Swedish fintech Klarna, which is also a buy-now-pay-later startup, raised $650 million at a $10.6 billion valuation.
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