YouTube’s TikTok Clone Has Arrived

YouTube’s TikTok Clone Has Arrived
Photo: Robyn Beck, Getty Images

After a slew of TikTok competitors cropped up across the U.S. this past winter, it looks like we’re getting yet another name added to that list. Enter YouTube Shorts, which the company rolled out in beta on Thursday for its American audience after testing the program over the past few months in India.

During that initial run abroad, Shorts looked and felt the same way TikTok did: Users could record their clips over music, speed up segments or slow them down, and string shorter clips together thanks to its “multi-segment camera” feature. With this wider rollout, YouTube’s bringing in some new sample-friendly features for creators that want to use them. Users are now free to snag audio samples from other Shorts for their own content, and in the coming months, they’ll also be able to use audio from YouTube’s endless clip archive. YouTube also promises that video creators who don’t want their audio sampled are free to opt-out if they choose.

If the bottomless pit of YouTube content wasn’t enough, the company noted in its blog post announcing the rollout that it now licenses music from hundreds of record labels and publishers, including Sony, Universal, and Warner Music Group — and that library is growing. Chances are, if you can think of a song, you can probably use it in Shorts.

Graphic: YouTube Graphic: YouTube

Naturally, YouTube is using the new product as a chance to cross-promote its other services — including YouTube Music, which still lags pretty far behind the music-streaming giant Spotify when it comes to popularity. If you’re watching a Short and want to hear more of the song snippet that it used, for example, all you’ll need to do is tap the clip to see their official artist channel, according to YouTube. If you’re watching a music video on YouTube and want to remix it for your own Short, YouTube says that all you’ll need to do is hit a button below the video to remix it yourself, or see other Shorts using audio from that same clip.

While Shorts is officially on U.S. soil starting today, YouTube’s blog notes that this is going to be a “gradual” rollout over the upcoming weeks. When that happens, YouTube is naturally planning to make it as visible as humanly possible: The company notes that it’s already intro’d a row for Shorts on YouTube’s homepage, along with a new “watch experience” that lets users swipe vertically from video to video, not unlike TikTok and literally every other TikTok competitor.

Speaking of all those competitors, you have to wonder how successful Shorts is going to ultimately be. When Instagram’s TikTok clone, Reels, first rolled out to the masses, it was pretty universally booed for not only being a blatant knock-off, but a blatant knock-off that hardly had the memeworthy appeal its inspiration did. Snapchat’s foray with its Spotlight, meanwhile, was called “cringey and grotesque” by some and an unmoderated mess by others. If YouTube wants to get this right, it’s going to need more than a massive music catalogue to do it.