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TikTok’s pushing its expanded DM options

TikTok’s pushing its expanded DM options


Now TikTok users can choose to accept incoming messages from anyone — in addition to friends — or shut off their inbox entirely.

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The TikTok logo on a black background with pink and blue repeating logos around the edges.
Image: Nick Barclay / The Verge

TikTok has been letting users know about its expanded DM options, which include the ability to let anyone message you. According to The Information, the platform has been sending emails to some users to let them know about the relatively new options, which were added in November and include the ability to let anyone DM you, potentially signaling that the company’s trying to push its private messaging features.

One of TikTok’s main competitors, YouTube, is closer to the pure entertainment side. While its comments system provides more interactivity than, say, Netflix, the site doesn’t have a system for private messaging (though it did at one point and recently added @name handles for easier tagging).

Closer to the other end of the spectrum are apps like Instagram and Snapchat; while you can absolutely post publicly on them, and people have made careers from doing so, direct messages are a core part of that experience. TikTok’s expansion could be a sign that it’s trying to move away from the YouTube side and closer to the other social networks.

If you go to Settings and Privacy > Privacy > Direct Messages in the TikTok app, you have several choices about who can send you DMs. You can let anyone send you a DM (though there’s an option to filter suspicious messages into a separate section), limit them to “suggested friends,” mutual friends, or turn them off completely.

Screenshot of TikTok’s direct messages privacy options page.
The suggested friends and mutual friends options have been around for years.

If it’s widely adopted, the Everyone option could make messaging much more common on TikTok; people could potentially reach out to creators they like or other users they don’t know from other platforms.

Some, like marketing executive Brendan Gahan, have interpreted the move as a shift for TikTok, saying that it’s trying to move away from just being an app for entertainment toward being more of a social network. “They’re placing an emphasis on your social connections,” he wrote in a LinkedIn post.

It’s hard to say exactly where TikTok will end up, but it does seem like it’s thinking more about what role user communication plays in its app — and trying to get users to think about that more as well.