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How to use Triller, in case TikTok actually gets banned

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TikTok may be the app-du-jour, but its presence in the United States may not last. 

Enter Triller, the video sharing platform emerging as the alternative to TikTok amid uncertainty over the app’s future. Popular stars like Charli D’Amelio, the most followed person on TikTok, are starting their own accounts on Triller. D’Amelio is still posting on TikTok as usual, however. (Though she hasn’t touched Instagram Reels, which they launched in an attempt to compete with TikTok.)

Triller, which began as a niche music discovery app because of its “AI-powered” editing features, has been around since 2015. Much of its appeal comes from its ability to automatically stitch together clips from multiple takes, sync it with music, and produce a music video. Musicians like Chance the Rapper and Lil Uzi Vert used Triller to promote new music before TikTok’s meteoric rise to popularity in 2018. Triller’s user base boomed this summer after India banned TikTok following ongoing border disputes with China. TikTok is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance. Last month, Triller overtook TikTok in the App Store, ranking first in Top Free Apps. TikTok came in third. 

The Triller app is becoming increasingly popular in the United States as the Trump administration has pushed to remove TikTok from American phones amid growing tension with China. TikTok appeared to be safe this week — it struck a deal that would hand over U.S. operations to Oracle, an American corporation friendly with President Trump. 

The deal includes a number of concessions to address the Trump administration’s security concerns, including allowing Oracle to host user data and hiring a TikTok board member with expertise in data security, but it wasn’t restrictive enough. 

The Trump administration announced on Friday that the executive order banning TikTok and the messaging app WeChat, which is also owned by a Chinese company, will take effect on Sunday. Starting Sunday night, TikTok will no longer be available for download on American phones. TikTok users also won’t be able to update the app or receive maintenance. 

During the weeks of uncertainty around TikTok’s fate, Triller’s user base has grown. The company reports it has 27 million active daily users, and  it has threatened to sue over reports questioning whether those numbers are inflated. For comparison, TikTok has over 50 million active daily users

How to use Triller, in case TikTok actually gets banned

Regardless of how many users the app actually has, more major influencers are quietly investing in Triller. President Trump even created a Triller account in August and has been using it to campaign against his Democratic rival Joe Biden. 

The app can be a little confusing to start, so here’s a handy guide on how to use Triller.

Getting started

You can find Triller in the App Store and in the Google Play Store

Like TikTok, you don’t need to make an account to view Triller content. But if you like or comment on a user video, try to follow a creator, or upload your own Triller video, the app will prompt you to join.

You can either create an account by following the app’s prompts, or tapping the person-shaped icon in the corner on the lower right of your screen. From there, you can sign in by linking your Apple, Facebook, Twitter, or Snapchat accounts. You can also create an account using your phone number or email address. 

From there, you can create a username and password. 

Once you’re logged in, you can tweak your profile by tapping “Edit Profile,” where you can change your profile photo, cover image, bio, add your Instagram username, and set your account to private. If you have a public account, others can view the videos you post by going to your profile. 

If you tap the gear icon in the top right corner of your screen, you’ll be able to turn off the auto-scrolling feed (more on that in the next section) and turn off data collection, an option that TikTok doesn’t offer. 

How to use Triller, in case TikTok actually gets banned

Image: screenshot via triller

Triller’s structure

The first thing you’ll see when you open Triller is the Social Feed. It’s the ongoing queue of short videos posted by other users. The menu across the bottom of the screen will open the app’s discovery features. 

Tapping the music note at the far left of the menu opens up a list of trending music — most of it is hip-hop, since the app’s popularity in the U.S. first stemmed from the rap industry. 

How to use Triller, in case TikTok actually gets banned

The magnifying glass, which is second on the menu, opens up a window of the top videos and trending hashtags on the app. Users can also browse through different content categories, like fitness, comedy, dance routines, and more. 

The magenta plus sign at the center of the menu is for posting videos. We’ll cover that later. 

To check your notifications, tap the bell icon, which is fourth on the menu. 

Lastly, you can view your own profile by tapping the person-shaped icon at the far right of the screen. It’s the fifth icon on the menu. 

The “Social Feed”

Unlike TikTok, which feeds users content through one algorithmically generated For You Page, Triller splits its content into two categories: Music and Social. 

The Social Feed is the Triller version of TikTok’s For You Page. Unlike the For You Page, which will loop videos indefinitely if you don’t swipe up or down yourself, the Social Feed will automatically scroll down to the next queued video without user action. (You can turn this feature off, though.) 

How to use Triller, in case TikTok actually gets banned

How to use Triller, in case TikTok actually gets banned

The Social tab shows overall trending videos, from sketches to rants to choreographed dances that use the library of music available on Triller. The Music tab shows just music videos edited either manually or using Triller’s AI editing feature. 

The Social Feed also doesn’t appear to be as curated as TikTok’s For You Page, and as a more music-driven platform, appears to favor showing content from verified artists whose songs are in its music library. 

The third tab on Triller’s landing page is the Following tab, which shows content from Triller users you’re already following. 

Engaging with posts

To engage with Triller videos, use the icons on the right side of the screen. The top two icons are for liking and commenting on the post. 

Tapping the third icon, a paper airplane, allows you to privately message the Triller user, sort of like replying directly to an Instagram Story. 

To share videos on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or WhatsApp, tap the arrow icon on the menu. In this feature, you can also directly message the clip to another Triller user using the app’s internal messaging, download the video to your phone, or copy the link. 

The fifth icon is a direct link to Apple Music. You can sync your Triller account and Apple Music and/or Spotify accounts for easier editing. Not all videos on your Social Feed include that option, though. 

The sixth icon will take you to a page of all Triller videos that use that sound. This one, for example, will show you all of the videos that use Dixie D’Amelio’s viral song “Be Happy.” 

Unlike TikTok, the button to follow a creator is under their username, which appears over their videos. 

How to use Triller, in case TikTok actually gets banned

How to use Triller, in case TikTok actually gets banned

Image: screenshot via triller

Posting and editing videos

To post a video, tap the pink + icon at the center of the menu at the bottom of your screen. The app will prompt you to choose between creating a Music Video or a Social Video, which will determine which tab your video will appear on for other users. 

How to use Triller, in case TikTok actually gets banned

Image: Screenshot via triller

Music Video

If you picked Music Video, Triller will bring you to a library of available songs. Once you select a song, you can choose which part of the song you want to use. 

In the next step, you can either film directly in the app or upload clips from your camera roll. Like on TikTok, you can add filters, adjust the recording speed, and set a timer using the menu at the top right of the screen. 

Once you’re ready to record, tap the camcorder icon in the bottom center of your screen. You can record multiple takes by tapping “Add Take” on the left side of the screen. Takes will queue up on the left as you record them.

First choose which part of the song you want to use.

First choose which part of the song you want to use.

Image: screenshot via triller

How to use Triller, in case TikTok actually gets banned

Image: screenshot via triller

When you’re done, tap “Next.” Triller will select clips from your takes and automatically stitch them together in sync with the song you chose. If you aren’t happy with the end product, you can choose to shuffle the clips and string them together again, or individually select segments from the timeline and replace them with another take. 

How to use Triller, in case TikTok actually gets banned

Image: screenshot via triller

The app will prompt you to preview your final cut before posting it. When you’re good to go, tap the pink “Share” icon in the top right of the screen. There, you can add a caption and tag a category. You can also set it to private if you don’t want the video to be publicly available.

Social Video

Recording and posting a social video is similar to the music video process, but it doesn’t prompt you to choose a song first. It also won’t automatically generate a final cut, so you’ll need to do all this by yourself.

You can either upload clips from your phone library or record in-app. Like with Music Videos, clips will queue up on the left side of the screen. Drag them to reorder the segments, and if you want a specific clip from the videos in the queue, tap on them and select the scissor icon. 

Posting Social Videos follows the same process as Music Videos: preview the final edit, tap “Share,” and add a caption and category. 

How to use Triller, in case TikTok actually gets banned

Image: screenshot via triller

There you go! It’s not quite the same, but it does take the guesswork out of editing videos.  

If TikTok does go down or disappears for good, never fear — at least we have something to fill the void.  

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The Trump campaign celebrated a growth record that Democrats downplayed.

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The White House celebrated economic growth numbers for the third quarter released on Thursday, even as Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s presidential campaign sought to throw cold water on the report — the last major data release leading up to the Nov. 3 election — and warned that the economic recovery was losing steam.

The economy grew at a record pace last quarter, but the upswing was a partial bounce-back after an enormous decline and left the economy smaller than it was before the pandemic. The White House took no notice of those glum caveats.

“This record economic growth is absolute validation of President Trump’s policies, which create jobs and opportunities for Americans in every corner of the country,” Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign said in a statement, highlighting a rebound of 33.1 percent at an annualized rate. Mr. Trump heralded the data on Twitter, posting that he was “so glad” that the number had come out before Election Day.

The annualized rate that the White House emphasized extrapolates growth numbers as if the current pace held up for a year, and risks overstating big swings. Because the economy’s growth has been so volatile amid the pandemic, economists have urged focusing on quarterly numbers.

Those showed a 7.4 percent gain in the third quarter. That rebound, by far the biggest since reliable statistics began after World War II, still leaves the economy short of its pre-pandemic levels. The pace of recovery has also slowed, and now coronavirus cases are rising again across much of the United States, raising the prospect of further pullback.

“The recovery is stalling out, thanks to Trump’s refusal to have a serious plan to deal with Covid or to pass a new economic relief plan for workers, small businesses and communities,” Mr. Biden’s campaign said in a release ahead of Thursday’s report. The rebound was widely expected, and the campaign characterized it as “a partial return from a catastrophic hit.”

Economists have warned that the recovery could face serious roadblocks ahead. Temporary measures meant to shore up households and businesses — including unemployment insurance supplements and forgivable loans — have run dry. Swaths of the service sector remain shut down as the virus continues to spread, and job losses that were temporary are increasingly turning permanent.

“With coronavirus infections hitting a record high in recent days and any additional fiscal stimulus unlikely to arrive until, at the earliest, the start of next year, further progress will be much slower,” Paul Ashworth, chief United States economist at Capital Economics, wrote in a note following the report.

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Black and Hispanic workers, especially women, lag in the U.S. economic recovery.

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The surge in economic output in the third quarter set a record, but the recovery isn’t reaching everyone.

Economists have long warned that aggregate statistics like gross domestic product can obscure important differences beneath the surface. In the aftermath of the last recession, for example, G.D.P. returned to its previous level in early 2011, even as poverty rates remained high and the unemployment rate for Black Americans was above 15 percent.

Aggregate statistics could be even more misleading during the current crisis. The job losses in the initial months of the pandemic disproportionately struck low-wage service workers, many of them Black and Hispanic women. Service-sector jobs have been slow to return, while school closings are keeping many parents, especially mothers, from returning to work. Nearly half a million Hispanic women have left the labor force over the last three months.

“If we’re thinking that the economy is recovering completely and uniformly, that is simply not the case,” said Michelle Holder, an economist at John Jay College in New York. “This rebound is unevenly distributed along racial and gender lines.”

The G.D.P. report released Thursday doesn’t break down the data by race, sex or income. But other sources make the disparities clear. A pair of studies by researchers at the Urban Institute released this week found that Black and Hispanic adults were more likely to have lost jobs or income since March, and were twice as likely as white adults to experience food insecurity in September.

The financial impact of the pandemic hit many of the families that were least able to afford it, even as white-collar workers were largely spared, said Michael Karpman, an Urban Institute researcher and one of the studies’ authors.

“A lot of people who were already in a precarious position before the pandemic are now in worse shape, whereas people who were better off have generally been faring better financially,” he said.

Federal relief programs, such as expanded unemployment benefits, helped offset the damage for many families in the first months of the pandemic. But those programs have mostly ended, and talks to revive them have stalled in Washington. With virus cases surging in much of the country, Mr. Karpman warned, the economic toll could increase.

“There could be a lot more hardship coming up this winter if there’s not more relief from Congress, with the impact falling disproportionately on Black and Hispanic workers and their families,” he said.

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Ant Challenged Beijing and Prospered. Now It Toes the Line.

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As Jack Ma of Alibaba helped turn China into the world’s biggest e-commerce market over the past two decades, he was also vowing to pull off a more audacious transformation.

“If the banks don’t change, we’ll change the banks,” he said in 2008, decrying how hard it was for small businesses in China to borrow from government-run lenders.

“The financial industry needs disrupters,” he told People’s Daily, the official Communist Party newspaper, a few years later. His goal, he said, was to make banks and other state-owned enterprises “feel unwell.”

The scope of Mr. Ma’s success is becoming clearer. The vehicle for his financial-technology ambitions, an Alibaba spinoff called Ant Group, is preparing for the largest initial public offering on record. Ant is set to raise $34 billion by selling its shares to the public in Hong Kong and Shanghai, according to stock exchange documents released on Monday. After the listing, Ant would be worth around $310 billion, much more than many global banks.

The company is going public not as a scrappy upstart, but as a leviathan deeply dependent on the good will of the government Mr. Ma once relished prodding.

More than 730 million people use Ant’s Alipay app every month to pay for lunch, invest their savings and shop on credit. Yet Alipay’s size and importance have made it an inevitable target for China’s regulators, which have already brought its business to heel in certain areas.

These days, Ant talks mostly about creating partnerships with big banks, not disrupting or supplanting them. Several government-owned funds and institutions are Ant shareholders and stand to profit handsomely from the public offering.

The question now is how much higher Ant can fly without provoking the Chinese authorities into clipping its wings further.

Excitable investors see Ant as a buzzy internet innovator. The risk is that it becomes more like a heavily regulated “financial digital utility,” said Fraser Howie, the co-author of “Red Capitalism: The Fragile Financial Foundation of China’s Extraordinary Rise.”

“Utility stocks, as far as I remember, were not the ones to be seen as the most exciting,” Mr. Howie said.

Ant declined to comment, citing the quiet period demanded by regulators before its share sale.

The company has played give-and-take with Beijing for years. As smartphone payments became ubiquitous in China, Ant found itself managing huge piles of money in Alipay users’ virtual wallets. The central bank made it park those funds in special accounts where they would earn minimal interest.

After people piled into an easy-to-use investment fund inside Alipay, the government forced the fund to shed risk and lower returns. Regulators curbed a plan to use Alipay data as the basis for a credit-scoring system akin to Americans’ FICO scores.

China’s Supreme Court this summer capped interest rates for consumer loans, though it was unclear how the ceiling would apply to Ant. The central bank is preparing a new virtual currency that could compete against Alipay and another digital wallet, the messaging app WeChat, as an everyday payment tool.

Ant has learned ways of keeping the authorities on its side. Mr. Ma once boasted at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, about never taking money from the Chinese government. Today, funds associated with China’s social security system, its sovereign wealth fund, a state-owned life insurance company and the national postal carrier hold stakes in Ant. The I.P.O. is likely to increase the value of their holdings considerably.

“That’s how the state gets its payoff,” Mr. Howie said. With Ant, he said, “the line between state-owned enterprise and private enterprise is highly, highly blurred.”

China, in less than two generations, went from having a state-planned financial system to being at the global vanguard of internet finance, with trillions of dollars in transactions being made on mobile devices each year. Alipay had a lot to do with it.

Alibaba created the service in the early 2000s to hold payments for online purchases in escrow. Its broader usefulness quickly became clear in a country that mostly missed out on the credit card era. Features were added and users piled in. It became impossible for regulators and banks not to see the app as a threat.

ImageAnt Group’s headquarters in Hangzhou, China.
Credit…Alex Plavevski/EPA, via Shutterstock

A big test came when Ant began making an offer to Alipay users: Park your money in a section of the app called Yu’ebao, which means “leftover treasure,” and we will pay you more than the low rates fixed by the government at banks.

People could invest as much or as little as they wanted, making them feel like they were putting their pocket change to use. Yu’ebao was a hit, becoming one of the world’s largest money market funds.

The banks were terrified. One commentator for a state broadcaster called the fund a “vampire” and a “parasite.”

Still, “all the main regulators remained unanimous in saying that this was a positive thing for the Chinese financial system,” said Martin Chorzempa, a research fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.

“If you can’t actually reform the banks,” Mr. Chorzempa said, “you can inject more competition.”

But then came worries about shadowy, unregulated corners of finance and the dangers they posed to the wider economy. Today, Chinese regulators are tightening supervision of financial holding companies, Ant included. Beijing has kept close watch on the financial instruments that small lenders create out of their consumer loans and sell to investors. Such securities help Ant fund some of its lending. But they also amplify the blowup if too many of those loans aren’t repaid.

“Those kinds of derivative products are something the government is really concerned about,” said Tian X. Hou, founder of the research firm TH Data Capital. Given Ant’s size, she said, “the government should be concerned.”

The broader worry for China is about growing levels of household debt. Beijing wants to cultivate a consumer economy, but excessive borrowing could eventually weigh on people’s spending power. The names of two of Alipay’s popular credit functions, Huabei and Jiebei, are jaunty invitations to spend and borrow.

Huang Ling, 22, started using Huabei when she was in high school. At the time, she didn’t qualify for a credit card. With Huabei’s help, she bought a drone, a scooter, a laptop and more.

The credit line made her feel rich. It also made her realize that if she actually wanted to be rich, she had to get busy.

“Living beyond my means forced me to work harder,” Ms. Huang said.

First, she opened a clothing shop in her hometown, Nanchang, in southeastern China. Then she started an advertising company in the inland metropolis of Chongqing. When the business needed cash, she borrowed from Jiebei.

Online shopping became a way to soothe daily anxieties, and Ms. Huang sometimes racked up thousands of dollars in Huabei bills, which only made her even more anxious. When the pandemic slammed her business, she started falling behind on her payments. That cast her into a deep depression.

Finally, early this month, with her parents’ help, she paid off her debts and closed her Huabei and Jiebei accounts. She felt “elated,” she said.

China’s recent troubles with freewheeling online loan platforms have put the government under pressure to protect ordinary borrowers.

Ant is helped by the fact that its business lines up with many of the Chinese leadership’s priorities: encouraging entrepreneurship and financial inclusion, and expanding the middle class. This year, the company helped the eastern city of Hangzhou, where it is based, set up an early version of the government’s app-based system for dictating coronavirus quarantines.

Such coziness is bound to raise hackles overseas. In Washington, Chinese tech companies that are seen as close to the government are radioactive.

In January 2017, Eric Jing, then Ant’s chief executive, said the company aimed to be serving two billion users worldwide within a decade. Shortly after, Ant announced that it was acquiring the money transfer company MoneyGram to increase its U.S. footprint. By the following January, the deal was dead, thwarted by data security concerns.

More recently, top officials in the Trump administration have discussed whether to place Ant Group on the so-called entity list, which prohibits foreign companies from purchasing American products. Officials from the State Department have suggested that an interagency committee, which also includes officials from the departments of defense, commerce and energy, review Ant for the potential entity listing, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Ant does not talk much anymore about expanding in the United States.

Ana Swanson contributed reporting.

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