Theresa Cramer

Prepare for a lot of angry teens — TikTok and WeChat downloads will be banned as of Sunday. App stores will no longer be allowed to maintain or offer the apps, though it seems users who already have the apps will be able to continue using them (so don’t be surprised if there is a sudden influx of installs on Saturday). However, going forward, users won’t be able to update the apps.

"The only real change as of Sunday night will be [TikTok users] won't have access to improved apps, updated apps, upgraded apps or maintenance," Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Friday morning on Fox Business.

According to a press release from the Commerce Department, the restrictions on WeChat are more prohibitive:

  1. Any provision of service to distribute or maintain the WeChat or TikTok mobile applications, constituent code, or application updates through an online mobile application store in the U.S.;
  2. Any provision of services through the WeChat mobile application for the purpose of transferring funds or processing payments within the U.S.

Restrictions will also get tighter in November for TikTok if the Trump administration isn’t satisfied by “a proposal involving ByteDance, TikTok's Chinese parent, and Oracle, designed to resolve the administration's national security concerns related to TikTok; the deadline for a deal is Nov. 12,” according to CNN.

The press release says that ss of September 20, 2020, for WeChat and as of November 12, 2020, for TikTok, the following are prohibited:

  1. Any provision of internet hosting services enabling the functioning or optimization of the mobile application in the U.S.;
  2. Any provision of content delivery network services enabling the functioning or optimization of the mobile application in the U.S.;
  3. Any provision directly contracted or arranged internet transit or peering services enabling the function or optimization of the mobile application within the U.S.;
  4. Any utilization of the mobile application’s constituent code, functions, or services in the functioning of software or services developed and/or accessible within the U.S.

What this means for marketers

Content creators and fans will largely be left in the lurch but the bigger story here is what it will do to American companies who use these apps as marketing tools. From Walmart to Starbucks, companies rely on WeChat to communicate with Chinese customers. For its part, WeChat offers e-commerce services allowing U.S. brands to sell products to Chinese consumers — a channel that’s about to dry up.

This could have equally far-reaching consequences for app marketers, who have embraced TikTok as an emerging channel for their UA endeavors.