Alphabet-owned YouTube has rolled out the beta, or test, version of Shorts – its short-form video experience to rival popular Chinese app TikTok – in more than 100 countries, including the Middle East and North Africa region.
First launched in India in September last year and then in the US in March, Shorts has since expanded to nearly 26 countries. It allows creators and artists to film short, catchy videos using their mobile phones and produce videos lasting up to 60 seconds.
“Through their videos and live streams, Arabic-speaking YouTube creators broke world records, raised millions for humanitarian causes and created powerful communities around their content,” Tarek Amin, director of YouTube for the Mena region, said.
“YouTube Shorts will be another tool for them to continue telling their stories and expressing their creativity,” he added.
YouTube, which has more than 2 billion monthly logged-in users and over a billion hours of videos that generate massive amounts of views, is doubling down its efforts to expand within the shorter video format to compete with rival apps such as TikTok, Instagram (Reels) and Snapchat (Spotlight).
The company, which did not disclose the exact number of creators and active users of Shorts, said the YouTube Shorts player has surpassed 6.5 billion daily views since its launch.
Users of Shorts can automatically add captions, include clips from the phone’s gallery, use basic filters to colour-correct the recordings and also set the timer countdown to record hands-free and choose when to automatically stop the recording.
Shorts is still in its beta phase, and YouTube said it will add more features to its new platform in the coming months.
“We want to make it easy and fun to create Shorts … as we continue to build Shorts alongside our creators and artists, we will be adding more features for users to try,” Todd Sherman, global product manager for YouTube Shorts, told a media roundtable.
Short-form video creators can’t share revenue from advertisements played in the Shorts player. Instead, the company has started $100 million YouTube Shorts Fund to attract more users and reward them for their contributions to Shorts.
Funds will be distributed over the course of 2021-2022 and the company will reach out to creators whose Shorts received the most engagement and views to reward them for their contributions, YouTube said.
“We will be using this fund to help creators monetise their videos while we begin testing ads and work on longer-term monetisation solutions.”
“Creators have built entire businesses on YouTube and we want to enable the next generation of mobile creators to also grow a community on YouTube with Shorts,” it added.
Over the last three years, YouTube has paid more than $30 billion to creators, artists and media companies that generate content to be shared on the platform.
YouTube Shorts player's new features also include the ability to sample audio not only from other Shorts but also from billions of videos across YouTube.
This means that users can put their own spin on the content they like to watch on YouTube and help find it a new audience. However, creators will be in control and will be able to opt out if they don’t want their long-form video remixed.
Music creators will have access to a large library of songs to use in their Shorts from multiple labels and publishers including Universal Music, Sony Music, Warner Music, Believe, Merlin, Because Music, Beggars and Kobalt.
The company has introduced a space on the YouTube homepage especially for Shorts and allows users to swipe vertically from one video to the next. It will soon add a Shorts tab on mobiles that makes it easier for users to watch Shorts with a single tap.