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Thursday, October 21, 2021

Battle of short video apps: ‘YouTube Shorts’ unveiled as latest TikTok competitor


Vine, Snapchat, Instagram Stories and Reels, Facebook Stories, TikTok and now YouTube Shorts – what’s the hype with short video features?

In October 2018, TikTok surpassed Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube in terms of app downloads. Since then, large tech companies have raced to launch competing services, prompting TikTok clones to spawn in many of our favourite apps. 

Instagram did what Instagram does best: the company introduced Reels and promoted it to one of the five primary tabs in the app. 

Snapchat, whose Stories feature was ripped off in the past, also introduced a clone in its app and paid creators $1 million a day to entice them to post short videos on the app.

Read also: Qatar invests millions into India’s TikTok rival app Josh

Most recently, YouTube entered the battle with its YouTube Shorts feature, yet another TikTok clone. However, the rollout of the new addition has been slow, with the service initially introduced as a beta service only in India. Shorts rolled out to more countries including Qatar earlier this week. 

New day, new TikTok clone

The launch of TikTok clones in 2020 is not a coincidence by any means. It comes as TikTok had both its best and most challenging year.

The pandemic contributed to the rise of TikTok, which all but catapulted as a mainstream social media app. As people spent more time at home, they had more free time to create and consume digital content. It was also hard to post content to Instagram since people were taking fewer photos. So people turned to TikTok to utilise its creative tools which helped them create fun and unique videos from the comfort of their home.

TikTok’s success isn’t the only factor that spawned many competitors. After staggering growth in the first half of 2020, the company was targeted by no other than Donald Trump who vowed to use his executive powers to ban the app.

Read also: Instagram music finally comes to Qatar

This was followed by months of legal battles between ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, and the US government. During this time, the future of TikTok was uncertain, and it seemed like we could’ve soon lived in a world without lip-syncing videos.

Tech companies recognised that if TikTok were to ever disappear that we’d need an alternative, and so they launched their own clones hoping to win our time, attention and home-recorded dance videos over.

Surely enough, TikTok survived its battle with the US, but companies such as YouTube are still eager to steal a slice of its success.

Where’s Vine in all of this?

Amid the rise of short-term video apps, our beloved Vine, the original short video app, is no longer in the picture. The inventor of short six-second videos lived up to its motto with its own short lifespan. The app, which sold to Twitter, was shut down when Twitter decided to refocus its efforts on its core product.

Vine capitalised on our shortening attention spans with short easy-to-consume content. Its six-second videos contrast with YouTube’s longer 10-20 minute ones. 

Dom Hoffman, who co-founded Vine, launched his own app Byte as a Vine v2. Byte features looping 6-8 second videos living to the origin of Vine as opposed to matching TikTok’s longer 15-60 second videos.

Byte may have been successful if it launched in a TikTok-less world, but the market is different now. The app has seen some early signs of success, but it doesn’t match the monopoly that Vine enjoyed when it first launched.

What’s unique about YouTube Shorts?

YouTube aims to take advantage of its market position to lure people into watching Shorts. Users will begin seeing YouTube Shorts directly alongside their recommended content on the home tab. The company has yet to announce plans to pay creators for producing content. This is similar to Instagram, which also hopes to engage its large active user base with its TikTok clone.

Snapchat, Byte and even TikTok all offer payouts to creators to encourage them to post their content on their platforms. After all, users will go where the creators go.

Read also: Why are memes selling for millions online?

It remains unclear if YouTube Shorts will feature its own original content, or if most of the content will just be TikTok re-uploads. So far it seems that most videos uploaded are just re-uploaded from TikTok the same way Instagram Reels are often reposted too.

Can YouTube steal TikTok’s thunder?

YouTube is generally associated with long videos, and the video giant may struggle to retrain its users to open the app for short videos too. Having said that, creators often prefer posting their content where they already have an audience. It’s easier to post Shorts on a platform where you already have a following than to try and convert this following in another app too.

With all these competitors though, the battle for short videos won’t be easy. It took Facebook many apps and attempts until it managed to beat Snapchat at Stories. Instagram beat Snapchat because users already had a following on the app, so it may be the same case with YouTube too.

Have you gotten used to watching short videos on Tiktok, or are you happy giving YouTube Shorts a shot? 

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