YouTube Shorts Beta Hits U.S., Video Giant Lays Out Road Map for TikTok Rival

YouTube Shorts player currently tops 6.5 billion daily views globally

YouTube Shorts US Beta Launch
Courtesy of YouTube

YouTube Shorts, YouTube’s answer to popular short-form video app TikTok, is now available to a small group of U.S. users in a beta — slated to come to everyone in the next few weeks.

For now, YouTube Shorts doesn’t include any ads or offer other monetization features for creators, but YouTube will begin experimenting with those later this year, according to Todd Sherman, product lead for YouTube Shorts.

With the U.S. beta launch, YouTube Shorts has added some new features, like the ability to add text to specific points in the video and to sample audio from other Shorts. In addition, YouTube Shorts now lets you swipe vertically from one video to the next. YouTube also is testing out a Shorts tab on mobile to access clips with a single tap.

Shorts “really feels like a natural progression for YouTube,” said Sherman. “We think it’s important to take a step forward with this beta with the creator community. We want to get out there and build with these folks.”

Like TikTok, which started out as a lip-syncing app, YouTube Shorts is heavily focused on music. And YouTube is building Shorts to integrate with the mother ship: If you hear a snippet of a song on Shorts, you tap to find the full song, watch the music video, or learn more about the artist all on YouTube. Soon, the feature also will work the other way: From a YouTube music video, you will be able to click a “create” button right from the video to make your own Short with that audio or see other Shorts that use the song.

“The music industry is so stoked for this,” said Lyor Cohen, global head of music at YouTube. “This is going to help drive a lot of new listening.”

For YouTube Shorts, the video platform’s music team has signed licensing agreements to use snippets of millions of songs from over 250 labels and publishers. Those include Universal Music Group’s labels and publishing companies, Sony Music Entertainment and Publishing, Warner Music Group and Warner Chappell Music, Believe, Merlin, 300 Entertainment, Kobalt, Beggars, CD Baby, Empire, Peer, Reservoir, and OneRPM.

Eventually, YouTube Shorts creators will be able to clip audio from the vast main YouTube corpus — encompassing billions of videos worldwide — although the owners of those videos will be able to opt-out from having their content from remixes.

That will “unlock a new playground of creativity,” Sherman said.

YouTube Shorts first launched last fall in India, where TikTok currently is banned. The number of Indian channels using the Shorts creation tools has more than tripled since the beginning of December — and the YouTube Shorts player has now surpassed 6.5 billion daily views globally, according to YouTube. That’s up from 3.5 billion just a month ago.

YouTube Shorts lets users record, edit and share clips up to 60 seconds in length (although right now you can clip only up to 15 seconds from music videos). The tool includes a multisegment camera to string multiple video clips together, the ability to record with music and to control speed settings (like TikTok).

To help people find the short-form videos, YouTube has added a row on the homepage dedicated to Shorts. Anyone can view YouTube Shorts but at first the beta of Shorts creations tools will be available to a small percentage of randomly selected U.S. users before that widens out over the coming weeks.