On Thursday, the company said it’s expanding the beta program for its short-form video offering, called Shorts, to the United States now and over the next several weeks. Previously, it tested the product only in India. Globally, users have been able to view Shorts, but not create them.
YouTube says its feature allows social media creators to “shoot short, catchy videos using nothing but their mobile phones.” It offers a way to string multiple clips together, add music, and use a timer and countdown to record videos hands-free, all features currently available on TikTok.
On Thursday, YouTube teased a few new tools it hopes will help it stand out from the pack: Users will be able to sample audio from other Shorts videos and “remix it into your own creation.” Creators will also be able to add text to specific points of the video.
YouTube Shorts joins a crowded field of short-form video apps, which are all trying to tap into the craze for bite-sized social media content and capitalize on TikTok’s tumultuous year. Instagram has launched Reels in the United States and other countries and Snapchat’s Spotlight feature is giving away $1 million a day to the users who make the most entertaining videos. Two of TikTok’s rivals in the United States merged earlier this year, while another called Dubsmash was acquired late last year by Reddit.
YouTube also plans to tap into its broader ecosystem by launching the ability to use audio from videos across the platform. “This means you can give your own creative spin on the content you love to watch on YouTube and help find it a new audience — whether it’s reacting to your favorite jokes, trying your hand at a creator’s latest recipe, or re-enacting comedic skits,” the company said in a blog post. YouTube added that creators will be able to opt out of other people using their long-form videos. (On TikTok, it’s a popular practice to “duet” someone else’s video. The videos appear side by side, and users can recreate or react to the original video).
Todd Sherman, product lead for YouTube Shorts, said the company is trying to “lower the barriers of creation” and help the next generation of aspiring influencers find an audience. Producing a traditional YouTube video can be time consuming and costly: Professional YouTubers often have expensive camera equipment, editing software and other tools to make their long-form videos pop.
“YouTube made it so that a whole generation of people using cameras and computers and video editing software could practice their craft and build an audience,” Sherman told CNN Business. “That story is very similar to the story of what we’re doing with Shorts once again, except now it’s all based on the phone and what you can get done inside of a phone.”
The Google-owned platform first announced the product in September, launching an early beta version of Shorts only in India. Months before, India banned TikTok and several other popular Chinese apps, saying they pose a “threat to sovereignty and integrity.” As a result, Indian TikTokers rushed to find alternative platforms, and tech giants and upstarts alike pounced on the opportunity.