YouTube is gearing up to launch a beta version of its TikTok competitor, Shorts, in the U.S. beginning in March, chief product officer Neal Mohan announced today. According to YouTube, Shorts is a new short-form video experience for creators and artists who want to shoot short, catchy videos using nothing but their mobile phones.
In a blog post announcing a number of features coming to YouTube in the coming months, Mohan said the YouTube team will be giving more creators access to Shorts in the U.S. The YouTube team has seen success with Shorts in India, where the feature has existed for several months, according to Mohan. Since December, “the number of Indian channels using Shorts creation tools has more than tripled, and the YouTube Shorts player is now receiving more than 3.5 billion daily views globally,” he wrote.
Rumors that YouTube was developing a TikTok competitor first emerged in April 2020, but YouTube didn’t release Shorts until September 2020, when it was launched in India. While YouTube was exploring how to extend its creator base and 2 billion monthly users to a mobile-first product in wake of TikTok’s explosive popularity, Instagram was doing the same thing. Instagram launched Reels not long before YouTube rolled out Shorts, leading two of the world’s biggest tech and social platforms racing to catch up to ByteDance’s app, TikTok.
It’s no surprise that YouTube is trying to get into the short-form video game as soon as possible. Like other companies, TikTok’s business was helped by the pandemic, giving people stuck at home around the globe the ability to engage with a seemingly endless stream of new, short videos and make their own. TikTok is forecasted to cross the 1 billion monthly active user this year, too.
Mohan’s blog also announced new monetization features, including applause, which will allow fans to buy a one-time clapping animation that appears on top of the video. Creators are given a certain percentage of the revenue from each applause purchased. Similar tools like this already exist, including Super Chat. Mohan didn’t say when the feature will become available to creators, only that people should be able to “unlock” it later this year.
On top of that, YouTube is beta testing a “new integrated shopping experience” that will roll out later this year. The idea is that people can purchase items from channels whose opinions they trust. According to a YouTube spokesperson, creators can tag products in their videos, allowing viewers to purchase tagged products.
In an effort to give users more control over parts of YouTube and how they watch videos, the company is rolling out a couple of product features that will directly impact what and how they watch. For example, the YouTube Kids app is adding the ability to add specific videos and video channels from the main app. This will allow children to watch videos that parents think are acceptable but may not appear in the YouTube Kids app because of restrictions in place — i.e. gaming videos and channels.
Finally, YouTube is also expanding its “chapters” feature, which adds specific timestamps to videos. Soon, they’ll be automatically added to relevant videos that may require chapters. More detailed info about all of the changes can be read in Mohan’s blog, alongside the videos that YouTube’s product team will release throughout the year detailing what’s to come.