TikTok vs YouTube and the Future of Online Video

TikTok vs YouTube seems to be the battle to determine who’s on top of online video. Though, I don’t think that’s actually what is at stake in this fight.

The world is finally discussing online video platforms as true competition to YouTube. There are conversations happening revolving the question “Is TikTok Replacing YouTube?“.

It’s a fascinating question, but the answers have been lacking nuance.

This post is an attempt to unpack the debate, and look into the future of Online Video.

Is TikTok Replacing YouTube?

No. TikTok satisfies a smaller, faster paced audience. YouTube still has a dominant hold on online video as a whole.

Assuming that TikTok replaces YouTube overlooks the infrastructure and usage behind each app. YouTube is the leading video hosting platform on the internet. YouTube hosts thousands – maybe millions – of videos that are private or unlisted. Because there is no good alternative to simply host a video.

Almost every website you visit has YouTube videos embedded somewhere. Your parents can even show you YouTube videos without needing help… YouTube isn’t going anywhere.

TikTok merely took a chunk of YouTube, and has run with it very well.

Unbundling YouTube

I don’t see TikTok trying to replace YouTube. Instead, what I see is TikTok unbundling YouTube.

Defining “Unbundling”

Entrepreneurship circles throw the term ‘unbundling’ around a lot. It is when you look at a massive company or platform that serves a lot of purposes, and you build a small company laser focused on one of those purposes but you execute it better.

Examples:
Etsy is an unbundling of Ebay, focused on handmade goods.

Fiverr is an unbundling of Craigslist focused on services.

What TikTok Does Well

TikTok has unbundled a piece of YouTube that users have been clamoring for. A return to short, random content delivered through a powerful discovery algorithm.

Many of us fell in love with YouTube for that very reason many years ago. TikTok has taken that ball and ran with it well beyond the end-goal.

Short, funny, personality based content thrives in TikTok’s setting. And the mini communities that form around creators is almost always an effective draw for sponsorships.

But, The Headlines Said…

Headlines lately have been saying that TikTok is replacing YouTube, or eclipsing their usage.

The talking point coming from one report was that TikTok was overtaking YouTube in time spent on the app per user.

Of course, many publications stretched this data a bit. The data collected was only for Android phones, which cuts out a large population. And the measure of time spent per user changes the conversation.

YouTube has 2 Billion users, and TikTok has 700 Million.

The time spent per user gets hard to compare with such a difference. Nonetheless, it is a huge milestone for TikTok and a very clear sign of their engagement level.

The Future of Online Video

Just because the stats are twisted, doesn’t mean I can’t wildly speculate on the future of online video…

YouTube dominates online video without a doubt. In recent years, however, there is a ‘YouTube Style’ that the algorithm prefers. As a result, many videos can end up feeling bloated, and eerily similar to each other.

Content creators are going to end up needing to experiment a bit. Otherwise, they won’t know which platform is the natural fit for their content.

More platforms are going to emerge that satisfies users that the YouTube algorithm leaves behind.

Further unbundlings are very likely in the future. There are swaths of consumers waiting for a suitable platform to pop up. (That doesn’t infuriate them as much as YouTube.)

Potential YouTube ‘Unbundlings’

If we follow the line of thinking I’ve set out in this article, it’s not hard to see more platforms going this route.

Here are some likely to happen:

  • Pre-Recorded Gaming Video
  • Visual Artist Focused
  • Filmmaker Focused
  • Community Based Video Creation
  • NFT Access Based
  • Public Slideshows / Education / Explainers

What do you want to see happen with online video? Comment or Tweet at Me!


This essay was first shared in the “Creator’s Notes” Newsletter.

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