YouTube is aiming to bolster its TikTok rival Shorts with the expansion of a cross-platform function that gives users direct access to the short-form video experience. YouTube has been testing the function globally with a small percentage of mobile iOS users and recently said it’s preparing to extend the test to Android.
For those in the experiment, closing the YouTube app while watching Shorts will drop them into the Shorts player when they reopen the app, the company explained. If they exit the YouTube app while watching any content other than Shorts, they won’t be directed right into Shorts the next time they open the app.
YouTube is giving those selected to be part of the experiment the option of providing feedback about the cross-platform feature via the “send feedback” button via the Shorts player’s three-dot menu.
According to YouTube, the experiment will hopefully provide insight into whether users find it helpful to start from where they left off the last time they used the app. It also helps determine YouTube’s outlook on TikTok and the overall shift to short-form video.
The experiment applies only to those who engage with Shorts, YouTube’s answer to TikTok, which now boasts a reported 1 billion monthly active users and recently ventured into gaming through a Zynga partnership that’s bringing a new single-player music runner game called Disco Loco 3D to select markets exclusively for TikTok.
Despite the fact that TikTok is the short-form vertical feed format champion, it has been offering features that creep into YouTube territory, namely increasing the maximum video length from 60 seconds to three minutes back in December. At one point, TikTok also reportedly tested five-minute videos.
YouTube Shorts was initially launched in India in 2020 before being released in the US in March and globally in mid-July. The short-form video platform enables users to create up to 60-second videos with music, original audio or “remixed” content sourced from other YouTube videos unless creators have chosen not to allow their content to be repurposed in Shorts.
Along with TikTok, Instagram’s Reels and Snapchat’s Spotlight, Shorts content can be uploaded into or filmed directly in the app. Its editing components also allow for adjusted speed, a green screen effect, setting a timer and combining clips, among others.
Testing of direct access to Shorts comes at a critical stage in Shorts’ timeline given that usage is on the rise. YouTube parent company Alphabet announced that Shorts had surpassed 15 billion daily views in Q2, more than double what it had seen in Q1. Though that the increase may be due to market expansions and not to heightened demand.
YouTube has been engaging in a number of strategies to strengthen Shorts’ ability to compete with TikTok. In October, it announced a partnership with musician Ed Sheeran to host previews of his latest tracks exclusively in Shorts. The activation gave users access to over a dozen new songs ahead of their October 29 release date in addition to the ability to create their own #SheeranShorts takes for every track.
Then there’s the $100 million Shorts Fund, which offers select creators up to $10,000 per month for creative and engaging content. Shorts reaches out to thousands of creators each month who have uploaded at least one eligible Short to award them money. Eligibility is based on level of engagement and compliance with the app’s Community Guidelines, and is available to creators within and apart from the YouTube Partner Program. The fund, which launched in May, is available in the US, the UK, Japan, Russia and more countries. YouTube is also developing a long-term payment model for Shorts, but no word on the progress just yet.