This could be an interesting, and potentially significant shift.
As TikTok continues to rise, virtually every social app has been testing out its own short-form video variation, in order to latch onto rising consumer trends, and stay in touch with audiences. Facebook has Reels, available on both Instagram and in the main app, Snapchat has Spotlight, which enables creators to earn bonuses for content performance. And YouTube has Shorts, which has is already generating billions of daily views in the app.
And now, YouTube looks set to give Shorts even more focus – as per this new test:
“We’re currently testing out a new Shorts experience - if you’re in the experiment and you close the YouTube app while watching Shorts, you will be dropped into the Shorts player when you reopen the app (so you have direct access.) If you exit the YouTube app while watching any content other than Shorts, we won’t direct you right into Shorts next time you open the app.”
That would make Shorts the key focus for users who regularly engage with the option, with the app opening to a full-screen, never-ending feed of Shorts clips – just like TikTok.
The test underlines the rising influence of TikTok on broader app development trends, with users becoming increasingly accustomed to TikTok’s engrossing, active stream of content, that keeps them scrolling, and glued to the app for longer sessions.
YouTube’s looking to tap into the same, and while the test is only being made available “to a small percentage of viewers using mobile devices”, the broader impact, and implications of the experiment could be significant, both in terms of guiding YouTube’s development focus, and likely the development of similar features in other apps as well.
The most likely candidate here would be Instagram, which has already noted that Reels is now the ‘largest contributor to engagement growth’ in the app.
Given the popularity of Reels, and parent company Meta’s renewed effort to win back younger audiences, it would make sense for Instagram to eventually also open to a full-screen Reels feed, as opposed to the traditional Instagram post stream.
That’s where I’m guessing Instagram will eventually head, with users who regularly engage with Reels and Stories having their version of the app open to either of these streams instead, dropping people into a more engaging, scrolling feed of content to keep them in the app, and consuming more with every session.
Instagram’s chief Adam Mosseri has repeatedly noted that the app will lean further into video moving forward, and this seems like the most logical progression – and it could well take cues from YouTube’s approach in this respect, by opening to Reels for those who exited from the function in their previous usage session.
Either way, if you like short-form video, you’re in luck, because you’re likely to see a lot more of it. It’s amazing to consider the influence of TikTok in this respect, but with more and more users leaning into the format, it makes sense for these other, competing apps to also cater to that demand where they can, with tests and features like this.
But it is significant, considering it essentially changes what YouTube is to some degree.
As noted, the test is only limited for now, but it may well be a precursor of what’s coming, on YouTube more broadly and in IG.