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YouTube’s TikTok Clone
Open YouTube on desktop, see a row of “Shorts” and imagine a 40 y/o product manager wondering what to do about TikTok. Apparently the kids like short videos in portrait mode for some reason? Let’s push these everywhere.
YouTube was invented two years before the iPhone, by people who grew up with laptops, and these people run it today, when the first device for most people is a phone, which often remains their most powerful device even when they get a laptop — they might have an iPhone as their main device and a $200 chromebook for school.
Phones are used in portrait mode by default. I’d love to see data on this, but I’d estimate that most people have auto-rotate turned off, because it constantly happens by mistake, for example when you try to use your phone while lying on your side in bed.
Tapping the fullscreen icon on mobile YouTube rotates the video, and this irritates me, when I use fullscreen I just want to focus in the video without seeing anything else.
The most successful mobile games are in portrait mode. For a long time people made mobile games in landscape mode, like PC games, but even when they play a game, when they choose to enter a different world, people don’t want to rotate their phone anymore.
TikTok is successful because people would rather use a different app to watch video then rotate their phone.
Why did it take a chinese company to realize this? In China, almost everyone had a phone as their first device. The generational divide between laptop first and mobile first people doesn’t exist. Also, ByteDance as a company is five years younger then YouTube. The chinese tech industry started later and that is an advantage here, it means that the decision makers on every level are younger.
The name “Shorts” shows that to YouTube the important thing about TikTok is the length. These “Shorts” are in portrait mode because every aspect of the “Shorts” tab is a clone of TikTok, but they’re also pushed on desktop.
YouTube should figure out longform video in portrait mode.