YouTube is taking on TikTok with YouTube Shorts, a short-form video platform that it’s launching initially in India, where the Chinese video-sharing platform has been banned since late June, leading to a flurry of local and international players competing to take its space.
The new platform will allow users to upload videos that are 15 seconds or shorter using a set of features that closely mimic TikTok, including a multi-segment camera, speed controls, and a timer and a countdown feature, the company, which is owned by Google parent Alphabet, said in a blog post.
At present, the feature is available within the YouTube app on Android devices and the company has said it will come to iOS and other countries soon.
Last month, Facebook launched its own TikTok competitor, Instagram Reels, to a cold reception from reviewers and commentators — the company has not disclosed user stats for the platform yet.
India banned TikTok and many other popular Chinese-owned smartphone apps in June following military tensions between the Asian neighbors.
While homegrown players like Chingari, Roposo, Mitron have tried to fill the void, most have struggled to retain users after an initial burst of popularity following TikTok’s ban.
YouTube also tapped into data about TikTok users on phones using Google operating system Android to speed up its rollout plans in India, The Information reported.
When it was banned in June, TikTok had over 200 million users in India, making it the platform’s largest market. Local TikTok-clones like Chingari, Roposo, Mitron saw a spike in interest after the ban but none have been able to match TikTok’s success. While most apps have been able to mimic TikTok’s user interface, they have yet to crack the recommendation algorithm that helped the app succeed. The algorithm, which some experts have claimed is TikTok’s “crown jewel,” was developed as a collaboration between ByteDance’s AI Lab and Peking University. One of the major sticking points for TikTok’s planned U.S. sale has been China’s move last month to restrict the sale of A.I. algorithms like the one used by TikTok.