Google soft-launches YouTube Shorts, its own TikTok ripoff

The feature lands between TikTok and Byte in terms of functionality.

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On Monday, Google announced the rollout of YouTube Shorts in India. The feature is available on Android and it will soon hit iOS devices too. The 15-second videos will have a special section on the home page, but you can also swipe through videos vertically, like on TikTok. Though TikTok itself still has an unclear future in the U.S., Google seems tardy to the party when it comes to cribbing the popular app’s features.

Let’s all be TikTok — The new feature has the brevity of Byte, but it’s clearly going after TikTok. Google's own demo shows Shorts longer than 15 seconds. This soft launch includes table stakes tools like hands-free recording, the ability to use multiple clips, and adding music. Currently, the addition of music seems to actually be limited to music, like anti-Trump Triller, not user-generated sounds like TikTok, Byte, and Instagram Reels. It goes a step above Byte by adding a speed control tool, but lacks the creative effects of TikTok and Reels.

Google is looking to add more tools for creators in the coming months and expand YouTube Shorts to additional countries. While it definitely has the money and the power to transform this nascent feature into a serious competitor, Google is entering a race far behind the pack. We all laughed when Instagram cribbed Stories from Snapchat, but we slowly began to incorporate it into our app experience. By the time Google gets YouTube Shorts off the ground, TikTok might have fewer privacy concerns, Reels could gain a stronger foothold among those wary of TikTok, and Byte's quiet build of features mixed with its loyal, Vine fan base could surprise us all.

For years, the social media landscape has largely included massive corporations playing for keeps. The influx of competition in the space spurred by Silicon Valley outsider TikTok could be the best thing for it, but these aren’t companies known for playing nice with others.