TikTok owner ByteDance unveiled a new productivity app for document management on Wednesday. With the update to its enterprise collaboration tool Feishu, ByteDance is concentrating on a fast-growth area in China as more people work from home amid the pandemic and TikTok remains embroiled in an ownership crisis overseas after being targeted by the US.
Feishu Docs adds to ByteDance’s existing collaboration tools that are part of its main Feishu office suite app. This includes Feishu Meetings, a video conferencing tool that was launched earlier this year at the height of the spread of Covid-19 in China.
By spinning off Feishu’s current document functionality into its own app, Feishu Docs will get three new features: a format-free notepad that easily turns outlines into mind maps, charts for visualising diverse data, and a file management function that structures files based on their relation to each other.
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All the new features can also be accessed from within the main Feishu app, the company said, where other tools such as messaging and calendars remain. Spinning out Feishu Docs into its own app was done to make it “convenient for users to use it separately”, the company said without elaborating further.
The new app was unveiled by Feishu president Nan Zhang (no relation to ByteDance China CEO Kelly Zhang Nan) during the unit’s first-ever product event. ByteDance will launch more stand-alone productivity tools in the future, he said. The next one is expected to be the smart chart feature called Bitable, which will start internal beta testing in December, according to Zhang.
Feishu also unveiled some major updates to Feishu Meetings at the event. Meetings can now support up to 1,000 participants in a single meeting and users can live-stream conferences to audiences of more than 1 million people. This puts it ahead of competitors like Tencent Holdings’ WeChat Work and Alibaba Group Holding’s DingTalk, which support 300 and 302 simultaneous participants respectively. Alibaba is the parent company of the South China Morning Post.
Similar to how TikTok and the Chinese app Douyin share much of the same functionality, ByteDance said many of the new Feishu features will show up in the Lark app overseas. But Lark documents will not be getting a dedicated app.
“The majority of new features added to the main suite will be made available on both Feishu and Lark at the same time,” a ByteDance representative said, adding that this includes the notepad and the file management functions. “The new stand-alone product Feishu Docs will only be launched in the Chinese market.”
Feishu started in 2016 as an internal communication platform for ByteDance. The company now hopes it can compete with its larger rivals in enterprise collaboration. DingTalk and WeChat Work were the top two enterprise apps on Apple’s iOS App Store in China as of Wednesday, according to App Annie. Feishu came in at No 12.
So far, Feishu has managed to attract some well-known clients, including Xiaomi, utility app developer Cheetah Mobile, travel site Mafengwo and BlueCity, the owner of the gay dating app Blued.
As TikTok continues to face political headwinds in India and the US, ByteDance is now renewing its focus on the enterprise sector. Earlier this year, the company launched the cloud service platform Huoshan Yinqing to allow corporate clients to take advantage of capabilities such as computer vision and smart recommendations.
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