Sat. Apr 13th, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • The US hasn’t banned TikTok yet, but it’s halfway there and if the ban takes place TikTok will become increasingly difficult to get on your phone.
  • One of the closest competitors to TikTok is YouTube Shorts. Both platforms are very similar: short videos, similar editing tools, and recommendation algorithms.
  • Thanks to Youtube’s larger user base and easier monetization system, it could well take the short video top spot if TikTok goes the way of the dodo, despite it’s lackluster editing tools and trailing cultural influence by comparison.

TikTok is squarely in the sights of the US government, and one arm has already voted to ban it. Naturally, fans of the immensely popular app have concerns. What will we use to watch short clips with robotic voiceovers and trendy music without TikTok? The top contender might be YouTube Shorts.

What Happens if the US Bans TikTok?

On March 13, 2024, the US House of Representatives voted to pass a measure that would ban TikTok unless it separates from Chinese parent company ByteDance. As you may remember from elementary school, the House of Representatives is just one wing of the US government—it also needs to clear the Senate.

If that were to happen and President Joe Biden signs it into law—which he has indicated he would—what’s next? There are mainly two outcomes:

  • ByteDance sells its US operations to non-Chinese owners: In this situation, not much would likely change for TikTok users in the US. There would be a new owner of TikTok’s US operations, and they would be free to do what they wanted with the app, but TikTok would still be maintained and available.
  • TikTok is banned in the US: If ByteDance chose not to sell its US operations, the app wouldn’t magically disappear from phones overnight. It would be removed from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. The app would no longer receive updates, and it would slowly become unusable over time.

Regardless of the outcome, TikTok isn’t immediately going anywhere. But if a ban is put into place, it’ll be increasingly difficult to use the app, giving YouTube Shorts a chance to capitalize on the opportunity.

TikTok and YouTube Shorts Have a Lot in Common

tiktok and youtube shorts screenshots

TikTok / YouTube Shorts

First and foremost, it should be known that YouTube Shorts and TikTok are very similar. Shorts was essentially created to compete with TikTok, after all.

Both TikTok and YouTube Shorts are centered around short, vertical videos, and you scroll through them by swiping up and down. They offer tools for creators to edit their videos, track analytics, add music and sounds, use filters, and add stickers, text, and captions. You’re also able to search for videos that contain certain music and sounds.

The algorithm is a big part of what made TikTok so popular, and YouTube Shorts—like all of YouTube—uses one as well. On both platforms, your feed is full of videos from people you’ve explicitly followed/subscribed to and videos the algorithms think you’ll like.

Overall, if you’re familiar with how TikTok works, YouTube Shorts would be very easy to pick up. Even the interface on both platforms looks similar. Many creators are uploading videos to both platforms as well, so even the content is comparable.

YouTube Shorts Already Has a Larger Viewer Base

TikTok is immensely popular, more so than the vast majority of social media apps, but there are few names bigger than YouTube. As of January 2024, TikTok had 1.6 million monthly active users, while YouTube had 2.5 million. For creators, there are simply more eyeballs for their videos on YouTube, which is why so many creators use both platforms. As a user, that means you’ll be able to find a lot of your favorite creators on YouTube already.

Of course, Shorts are just one part of the YouTube pie. Some YouTuber users don’t like Shorts and just want to watch traditional videos. Whereas everyone on TikTok is specifically there for TikTok videos. Still, YouTube makes a concerted effort to get Shorts in front of more people, whether you’re watching on your phone, tablet, computer, or TV. This effort could pay off in a big if TikTok winds up getting banned.

TikTok Videos Can Be Longer Than YouTube Shorts

Surprisingly, TikTok bests YouTube Shorts when it comes to video length. You can upload multi-hour videos to YouTube proper, but Shorts must be 60 seconds or less. TikTok, on the other hand, has a limit of 3 minutes (and a minimum of 15 seconds).

That makes TikTok a more flexible platform for creators, which might be a problem for YouTube Shorts in the long run. There’s a lot you can do with those extra two minutes if you have more complex ideas for creating videos. Still, short videos are the name of the game on both platforms, so most videos people watch on either platform tend to be less than 60 seconds.

Monetization Is Easier for Creators on YouTube Shorts

TikTok and YouTube Shorts both allow creators to monetize their videos, but how they do it is vastly different.

YouTube utilizes its long-standing Partner Program for monetizing Shorts. Creators share a portion of the revenue generated through ad placements on their Shorts. It’s easy to sign up, and this system has allowed many creators to make a living from YouTube.

Prior to December 2023, TikTok offered monetization through its $1 billion “Creator Fund.” It was a fixed pool of money that was distributed among creators based on their performance, and since it was fixed, some creators on the lower end received very small payouts.

Nowadays, TikTok is more similar to YouTube. Through its “Creativity Program,” creators earn based on views and other metrics that aren’t restricted by a fixed pool of money. However, the program comes with the caveat that creators must make videos longer than 60 seconds. This means most TikTok creators should feel familiar with YouTube’s monetization system, making it less daunting for them to switch platforms if forced.

tiktok and youtube shorts editing screenshots.

TikTok / YouTube Shorts

One area where TikTok really shines is the breadth of editing tools and filters it has available. Among these are the preset style filters, which can be applied before you start recording. Additionally, some effects filters can do some truly wild things, and people have a lot of fun with these effects.

Once you’ve recorded your video, TikTok provides a suite of editing tools to refine your content further. You can adjust video effects, apply different filters, and add stickers and text. For more advanced editing, software like CapCut and Kapwing are commonly used.

YouTube offers a much more slimmed-down library of tools and filters. You can do the basics, like applying color-specific filters, adding text and stickers, recording voiceovers, and editing a timeline. However, for the more advanced stuff, you’ll want to do editing in the aforementioned apps like CapCut and Kapwing before uploading to YouTube.

The lack of easy-to-use, built-in editing tools could prove troublesome for YouTube Shorts. It’s easy for anyone to make a cool video on TikTok using these tools, which means we see inventive videos from all sorts of people. YouTube Shorts isn’t as broadly accessible, so the variety of content could suffer.

YouTube Shorts Could Take the Top Spot

On paper, TikTok and YouTube Shorts are more similar than different. However, there’s a definite difference in the culture and vibe. YouTube Shorts and Instagram Reels are considered by many to be the “second-hand” short-form video platforms. Trends start on TikTok and eventually trickle down to the others.

That being said, YouTube is obviously a mega-popular platform in its own right. If TikTok truly gets banned from the US, YouTube Shorts could easily step in and be a sufficient replacement. Most of the people who use TikTok—creators and viewers alike—already use YouTube anyway. There will always be a place for short videos on the internet.

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By John P.

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