TikTok users — especially young people — are increasingly treating the app like a search engine to find everything from nearby restaurants to news. TikTok search results are, in turn, reflecting that shift.
We noticed this week that the app had quietly added Wikipedia snippets to some search result pages for people, places, and events. I found Wikipedia links within search results for The New York Times, Taylor Swift, and Thanksgiving, among others.
TikTok spokesperson Zachary Kizer confirmed to The Verge that the company is partnering with Wikipedia to bring information to users directly in-app. Kizer says the feature has been live for a few months, but it doesn’t appear the company formally announced it or that media had reported it previously.
The Wikipedia feature appears as users scroll down through in-app search results and is sandwiched between relevant videos. Clicking on the snippet takes a user directly to Wikipedia; links at the bottom of the snippet jump to different sections of the Wikipedia entry.
But Wikipedia entries don’t appear consistently — there’s a snippet for New York and Los Angeles, but not Chicago. A search for the New York Mets surfaces a Wikipedia entry for the Mets 2015 season specifically. TikTok users have also stumbled upon snippets in languages including Russian. Kizer didn’t specify which search terms get Wikipedia links or how that’s being decided.
TikTok has added other features to its search function, which is still much less robust than a traditional Google search. Last month, it began monetizing search results by placing sponsored content between organic videos. A partnership with IMDb announced earlier this year allows creators to link films and TV shows in their videos, and IMDb links and snippets also appear in some search results.
Google has acknowledged that TikTok and other platforms could be eating into its search dominance. Last year, Prabhakar Raghavan, the SVP in charge of search at Google, said “something like almost 40 percent of young people, when they are looking for a place for lunch, they don’t go to Google Maps or Search — they go to TikTok or Instagram.”