November 1, 2020

YouTube is the latest company that thinks it’s TikTok


YouTube has always been the premier destination to watch music videos, skits, and how-tos, but consumers of shorter content found themselves drawn to competing apps. YouTube copied Instagram stories previously, and this new functionality seems targeted to TikTok teens. Now that TikTok’s future is uncertain, YouTube is announcing the launch of Shorts, a new way to create and share videos of 15 seconds or less.

The new Shorts experience is made up of a set of creation tools, a prominent row on the YouTube homepage, and a video player that lets users swipe vertically to skip videos. The new upload button placement seems to be part of Shorts as well. In true Google form, today’s launch is an early beta version of Shorts with limited features and availability. It will be rolling out across India over the next few days. The team plans to listen to feedback and tweak Shorts based on what they learn before bringing it to a more global audience.

Users will be able to record right from their phones and add music & effects before posting.

The timing of this launch sure seems curious. TikTok has been gaining popularity recently, and was thrust into the national spotlight due to President Trump’s threat of a ban. China has said it would rather see the app shut down than sold, which would leave an opening for YouTube to capture all those zoomers. Yesterday, Microsoft renounced its interest in buying the app amidst news that Oracle won the bid to take over TikTok’s US operations.

No matter if TikTok survives the approval process or not, I can’t help but wonder how long Shorts will stick around given Google’s track record. (Yes, I still shed a tear every time Allo comes up in conversation.)

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