TikTok was practically an overnight sensation just like FaceApp and, like the face-morphing app, it got dragged into a privacy and security scandal. Unlike FaceApp, however, TikTok’s problems grew to a national level in the US and its demise in the country was all but ensured. While its fate still likes in the hands of Oracle and the US government, YouTube seems to be taking no chances and is launching a beta test for its new Shorts format, directly taking on TikTok while it’s down.
YouTube gives us a very brief history lesson by reminding the world that the very first video uploaded to its servers was actually an 18-second short-form video. Of course, YouTube today has grown to encompass videos of all types and lengths but it has never really bothered with such short videos the way Vine did years ago. That was, of course, until TikTok made it huge.
It’s hard not to think that YouTube is trying to ride on TikTok’s coattails and problems but it wouldn’t be the first one to do so. It could, however, be one of the first that actually has a chance of making it big. YouTube already has years of experience in recording and uploading content, a library of music at its fingertips, and Google’s best AI and machine learning talent at its service.
YouTube Shorts, as it is being called, is an almost exact analogue to what TikTok offers, allowing users to record or stitch together videos 15 seconds or shorter in length. With a worldwide YouTube audience, Shorts also comes with the prospect of not only building an audience but potentially a business around those short videos.
Given its potential, it’s a bit surprising that YouTube is only launching the Shorts beta in India for now. Perhaps it doesn’t want to appear too greedy for TikTok’s part of the pie, especially since the latter’s fate is still undecided. Then again, Google has also had a very poor track record of building social networks outside of YouTube so it isn’t exactly an assurance Shorts will succeed anyway.