YouTube's TikTok rival launching U.S. beta

YouTube Shorts has surpassed 6.5B daily views globally since its initial launch in India in September

YouTube's rival to the popular video app TikTok, YouTube Shorts, has launched a beta Thursday for the Google-owned video platform's users in the United States.

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Shorts, which is designed for "anyone who wants to create short, catchy videos using nothing but their mobile phones," previously launched a beta in India in September.

YouTube noted in a blog post that the number of Indian channels using Shorts creation tools has more than tripled since the beginning of December and that the Shorts player has surpassed 6.5 billion daily views globally.

Similar to TikTok, YouTube Shorts currently allows users to string multiple video clips together using a multi-segment camera, record with music, control speed settings and more.

The company said it will also roll out more features in the coming months, including the ability to add text to specific points in videos and the ability to sample audio from other Shorts to "remix it into your own creation." In addition, YouTube plans to allow Shorts users to access audio from any video across its platform.

"This means you can give your own creative spin on the content you love to watch on YouTube and help find it a new audience — whether it's reacting to your favorite jokes, trying your hand at a creator's latest recipe, or re-enacting comedic skits," Shorts Product Lead Todd Sherman said.

However, the company noted creators will be able to opt out of other people using their long-form videos.

Photo courtesy of YouTube

The U.S. beta will offer millions of songs and music catalogs from over 250 music labels and publishers including Universal, Sony and Warner Music Group.

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Sherman also emphasized that YouTube would be focusing on ways to monetize Shorts and reward creators for their content. According to YouTube, more than $30 billion has been doled out to creators, artists and media companies over the last three years.

Photo courtesy of YouTube

YouTube has launched a new section on its homepage to promote Shorts, allowing users to easily swipe from one video to the next. The platform is also testing the addition of a Shorts tab on mobile devices.

Sherman acknowledged that YouTube Shorts is still undergoing tweaks and that it is expected to expand to the rest of the country in the coming weeks.

"As more people create and watch Shorts, we expect that our systems will get even better, improving our ability to help you discover new content, trends, and creators you’ll love," Sherman said. "We know that it will take us time to get this right, and we're just getting started. We can't wait for you to try Shorts and help us build a first-class short-form video experience right on YouTube."

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YouTube Shorts joins an already crowded field of TikTok competitors, including Instagram's Reels and Snapchat's Spotlight.

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TikTok, launched in 2016, has over 100 million monthly active users. The app is owned by Chinese technology firm ByteDance, which was caught in the crosshairs of the Trump administration last year when the former president issued an executive order forcing a sale of TikTok's American operations. The Trump administration claimed that Bytedance could pose a national security risk by handing over the personal data of U.S. users to China's government, allegations which TikTok has denied.

While ByteDance had reached a deal with Oracle and Walmart, the move has been put on hold after President Joe Biden ordered a broader review to address the security risks posed by Chinese technology companies.

Last month, ByteDance reached a $92 million settlement with TikTok users in the U.S. over data privacy concerns. Under the proposed terms of the agreement, TikTok will no longer collect or store a user's biometric information, including facial characteristics, or track users' GPS data. The company will also be prohibited from storing U.S. user data in databases outside of the country.

In addition, incoming TikTok employees and contractors will be required to undergo newly designed annual training on compliance with data privacy laws and company procedures, and TikTok will hire a third party to review data privacy law compliance training for a period of three years.

The tentative settlement awaits final approval by U.S. District Judge John Lee of the Northern District of Illinois.