Asia News Sep 16

YouTube jumps in to fill the TikTok-void in India

On Monday YouTube announced it has begun testing a TikTok rival in India before rolling the short video format in more countries; Facebook and others are also looking to get a share of the action

YouTube jumps in to fill the TikTok-void in India
The YouTube logo.

As millions of Indians hunt for an alternative to express themselves through quick videos in the absence of TikTok, Google’s You Tube announced on Monday that it has joined the bandwagon of launching a rival app to fill the void.

In a blog post that quickly went viral Chris Jaffe, the vice president of You Tube’s product management, said that the world’s most popular video sharing platform has started building YouTube Shorts, a new short-form video app right on the platform.

The app is primarily meant for creators and artists who want to shoot short, catchy videos using nothing but their mobile phones.

“Over the next few days in India, we’re launching an early beta of Shorts with a handful of new creation tools to test this out,” Jeff said.

“This is an early version of the product, but we're releasing it now to bring you — our global community of users, creators and artists — on our journey with us as we build and improve Shorts. We’ll continue to add more features and expand to more countries in the coming months as we learn from you and listen to your feedback,” he added.

While You Tube rolled-out a new spot for the create icon on Android, starting in India, going forward the icon would “expand to iOS devices and in more countries soon. You can also expect more creation features in the coming months,” he added.

Facebook also joins the fray

As a plethora rivals rush to fill in the space created by the TikTok ban in India about four months back, You Tube is not the only competitor though, standing large.

Two weeks ago, Facebook launched a short video-making app called Instagram Reels in India, in the form of a new “Reels Tab” in the navigation bar that replaced the Explore tab in the app.

“We’re expanding this test in India to most of the country. India is the first market we’re launching in due to the interest and creativity we’ve seen. We’re hoping this tab makes it easier for people to see and enjoy Reels,” said Manish Chopra, director and head of partnerships at Facebook India.

And Reels vies closely with You Tube Short; both claim the their respective app helps new creators on their mobile phones and both cap videos to 15 seconds per clip.

TikTok, on the other hand, allows for 60-second videos.

Read more: Chinese firms in India face an uncertain future

Zee5

There’s a local competitor too. Streaming service Zee5, part of a local media channel, Zee Entertainment Enterprises, introduced its new short-video creating tool HiPi in mid-August.

But while this new app is not quite a short-video apps – it lets users create 90-second videos and share it amongst their circles – it is already gaining wide acceptance among “celebrities, influencers, and commoners,” according to Zee5.

“HiPi will be defending its turf in the competition against Netflix and Walt Disney to grow its subscribers in India,” Tarun Katial, chief executive of Zee5, said in a release.

Key market

India is undoubtedly an important market for the TikTok wannabes. When India outlawed 59 Chinese mobile apps, including the popular SHAREit, TikTok, UC Browser, and SHEIN, citing them to be a security threat following the border skirmish mid-June, TikTok was already the most popular short-video app by a wide margin.

For instance, according to the app tracking platform Sensor Tower, with 611 million total downloads, India commanded a third of the video platform's base. In other words, TikTok saw around 2 billion downloads in April on Google and Apple play stores put together, out of which over 30% came from India.

That apart, according to data provided by YouGov, an Internet-based market research and data analytics firm, following TikTok’s exit, nearly two-thirds of urban Indians (65%) said they were likely to turn to alternatives or start using video apps that are either Indian or non-Chinese in origin.

Of these, 68% were TikTok content creators, who also said they were likely to switch to Indian or non-Chinese alternatives as well.

India ban to stay

Meanwhile even as the YouTube's announcement comes in the wake of Oracle’s confirmation as a technology partner for TikTok in the US after Trump’s pressure on the app to find a US home, India reportedly, has reiterated that its ban would remain.

Citing two senior government officials, a local newspaper Economic Times reported on Tuesday that TikTok and Oracle’s business partnership in the US is unlikely to lead to an easing of the ban in India.

For, India feels that even if the Oracle deal extends to India, it does not assure New Delhi that the data of Indian users will be safe and won’t be sent abroad. “There is no way to verify or for them to prove that data transfer is not happening to their servers in China,” the paper said.

Read more: ByteDance 'to partner with Oracle on TikTok US'

With reporting by AFP and Economic Times