Rumor mill: Google is no stranger to copying rival services and apps, but now it wants to take on TikTok by developing a new feature inside the YouTube app. Whether or not this will emerge as a worthy alternative remains to be seen, but it will likely depend on how well it complements the longer videos posted on the platform.
TikTok may not be to everyone's taste, but it has companies like YouTube worried that younger generations could slowly dedicate more and more of their time to a format that's more easily digestible for their short attention spans and penchant for scrolling entertainment.
According to a report from The Information, YouTube is preparing to respond to this potential threat with a comparable feature inside its app called Shorts. While TikTok is a standalone service, Google wants to implement this as a tab inside the YouTube app where it will emulate the already familiar experience of a continuous feed with short videos accompanied by background music of their choice.
If everything goes as planned, YouTube might be able to deliver it by the end of 2020. With Shorts, the company could offer an alternative to the longer videos typically surfaced by the algorithm on YouTube, and possibly win over some of TikTok's one billion users.
Google's advantage is that YouTube's extensive music library is a good foundation for creating short videos, and baking the feature into the same app will make it easier for content creators to drive viewers to them. Lower friction from not having to download a separate app could give Shorts a fighting chance, even though TikTok may have a strong hold on its users in much the same way as Snapchat.
In 2018, Facebook also launched a TikTok alternative called Lasso, but it's mostly been used as a small experiment in Brazil. One of Vine's founders also launched Byte earlier this year to provide the same video format. However, neither of them have risen to any discernible heights.
If Google wants Shorts to succeed, it has to avoid all the mistakes it has made with things like Google+ and YouTube Stories. And if record labels agree to content creators getting access to clips of their music used in the background, Shorts might be able to take off. In the meantime, TikTok owner ByteDance is taking on the likes of Spotify and Apple Music with Resso.