Google’s YouTube is the latest service to give TikTok a run for its money.
After testing an early version of a TikTok rival in India, YouTube is bringing the product to the U.S. The expansion, slated for next month, adds to the number of tech companies, such as Facebook and Snapchat, already pushing copycats of the popular video app.
YouTube’s new feature, called YouTube Shorts, will let so-called creators—its user-videographers—shoot 15-second videos paired with audio clips. The service’s vertically scrollable feed looks very similar to TikTok’s viewing format.
YouTube began testing Shorts in India in September. The pilot faced less competition in the booming mobile market there, since India banned TikTok, owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, and other Chinese apps after a border skirmish in June.
YouTube Shorts gained some early traction in India. The app was recently garnering more than 3.5 billion views per day, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said in a January blog post. The company also said that the number of Indian channels using Shorts tools has more than tripled from December to now, though it didn’t provide specifics about the numbers underlying that growth rate.
YouTube is a relative latecomer to an increasingly crowded field. Facebook rolled out its TikTok rival Reels on Instagram in August, and Snapchat debuted Spotlight in November. So far, no other service has quite captured the viral success of TikTok, which first became popular among teens creating dance challenge videos.
TikTok retains the crown. The app has more than 700 million monthly active users globally and has been downloaded more than 2 billion times. Instagram and Snapchat have yet to show that their TikTok-like features are attracting the same wide audiences. (Spotlight has attracted 100 million users, Snapchat revealed in its latest earnings report. Facebook has yet to detail the number of people who use Reels.)
Meanwhile, TikTok’s confrontation with the U.S. government appears to be on pause. Last year, Donald Trump tried to force a sale of TikTok from its parent company to a U.S.-based company, citing national security concerns. In December, a federal court granted an injunction that blocked Trump’s attempts.
ByteDance had entered into a tentative agreement to sell TikTok to Oracle and Walmart. But since then, the proposed deal has reportedly been put on hold. President Joe Biden’s administration plans to review the situation, according to the Wall Street Journal, and the company’s fate remains unclear.
YouTube could challenge TikTok’s dominance. The company has more than 2 billion users on its video service, a ready audience for any short-form videos. YouTube is also luring creators with the possibility of making money; the number of channels earning more than $10,000 a year on YouTube has been growing more than 50% year over year, the company said.
On TikTok, people can make money through brand sponsorships, in which TikTokers promote companies’ products in their videos. YouTube, generally, offers people another way to make money: a cut of advertising revenue—though it’s unclear if YouTube Shorts will include ads.