YouTube launches TikTok challenger brand Shorts

It is one of several platforms looking to fill the gap in the market left by TikTok.

YouTube Shorts: accessible via the YouTube app
YouTube Shorts: accessible via the YouTube app

YouTube has embarked on an apparent challenge to TikTok with a new feature within its main app for users to shoot and upload 15-second videos.

The opportunistic new feature will be beta launched in India, which was TikTok's biggest market until the app was banned in late June.

The product, called YouTube Shorts, was unveiled on Monday (14 September) and will be accessible via the "Create" icon in the YouTube mobile app, which was recently given a more prominent spot for Android users in India in anticipation of Shorts.

In Create, users can select three options: upload a video, create a short or go live. Users can edit pre-existing video of 15 seconds or less or shoot new videos using a multi-segment camera, which allows the option to string video clips together.

Other tools similar to those offered by TikTok and Instagram Reels include a timer and countdown for hands-free recording, speed controls and the option to set content to music by using YouTube's library of songs.

An early beta version of the product will be rolled out in India over the next few days, with more creation tools and country launches planned "in the coming months".

YouTube said it is releasing the product early to allow its community of users, creators and artists to provide feedback and iterate the tool. 

In a blog post, Chris Jaffe, YouTube's vice-president of product management, said user-generated short videos "were born on YouTube" starting with its first-ever upload, an 18-second video called "Me at the zoo".

"As technology advances, creators and artists can now take advantage of the incredible power of smartphones to easily create and publish high-quality content wherever they are in the world. And people can be entertained and informed by bite-sized content in the spare minutes of the day, " he said. "That’s why we’re excited to announce that we are building YouTube Shorts, a new short-form video experience right on YouTube for creators and artists who want to shoot short, catchy videos using nothing but their mobile phones."

The YouTube homepage will now have a row for short videos, and users will be able to swipe vertically from one video to the next and discover other similar short videos as part of a new viewing experience introduced for Shorts.

The opportunistic launch comes just months after India banned TikTok from operating in the market as part of a broader crackdown on Chinese-owned apps. TikTok had 200 million users in India when it was banned in June. One week after the ban was instituted, Instagram launched a copycat short-form video format called Reels in India. The product, which allows users to create and share videos up to 15 seconds long, was rolled out to more than 50 countries in August.

A version of this article originally appeared on Campaign Asia