A recent update to the YouTube app took me by surprise. Instead of the usual recommended YouTube long-form content I’ve been curating since forever, I was taken straight to vertical video content and a new interface that looks like a near-copy of TikTok. YouTube is heavily pushing “Shorts,” which more often than not, is the same content you see on TikTok also, verified by its logo hovering over the video. They’ve even ripped off TikTok’s music functionalities.
And right now, YouTube is providing some pretty big reach to those leveraging the Shorts format.
Over on Snap, one of the pioneers of the vertical video format, Discover is riddled with TikTok compilation-style content. This, however, doesn’t appear to necessarily be an intentional strategy by Snap, just that the same content is leaking over to the app by virtue of it also being vertical video.
The same goes for Instagram, but they have taken cues from TikTok’s interface for how it promotes its Reels format.
Virtually everywhere, I am seeing the same content.
Have product heads at every social app decided that TikTok’s video format is necessarily superior? Because Reels, Shorts, Stories are—let’s call it what it is—copies of TikTok.
The TikTok-to-Everywhere Pipeline
From a content creation perspective, this does go far in simplifying things. If you focus on creating for TikTok — the same rapid-fire editing style cut to music, utilizing fun TikTok-native voiceover effects, it makes creating content dramatically simpler.
Instead of shooting the same concept with different executions across platforms with various aspect ratios and quality expectations, we are now focusing on generating TikTok-styled content and exporting that everywhere else.
For creators who have become experts at making things on TikTok, YouTube Shorts has become a very attractive place with more reliable reach than hit-or-miss TikTok using the same exact content. They’ll go where they will see growth.
But how does this affect the users of these apps? Is this trend dampening creativity that other formats have afforded?
The Reupload Frenzy Begins: Piggybacking Off TikTok Creativity
It is not uncommon now to come across the same video on different platforms these days and users are extremely sensitive to this.
Seeing the same content everywhere is by nature going to make you less engaged with that content. Also, the advantage of TikTok’s For You page algorithm makes content on the platform feel more curated and tailored to the user based on what you’ve been following. This is not true for YouTube Shorts or Instagram Reels which have a heavy-handed approach, at least at the moment.
For users who have gotten used to specific content types across each platform — going to YouTube for longer-form videos, going to Instagram for eye candy — the TikTokification of these platforms is making the reason users choose to open a particular app less intentional.
What is good for creators is not necessarily good for a platform’s users.
What’s Next For Short-Form Vertical Video?
YouTube has a large existing user base it can cull from to generate views in the near term, but will Shorts be sticky for users in the future? Instagram Reels have begun to set itself apart with content geared for an Instagram-focused audience but is still drowning in TikTok reuploads.
Time will tell if users get tired of social platforms ruthlessly copying the app of the moment.