When you have some time to kill on your phone and want to consume short-form content, which app do you open: Instagram Reels, TikTok, or YouTube Shorts?
Which is your favorite? Which one of these offers the best user experience? Features? Which one would you place on top?
Let’s take a closer look at what each app offers, compare, and try to determine which is the best one to use, as both consumer and creator.
Which Platform Started the Short-Form Craze?
Out of the three platforms, TikTok came first, and the others were a response to its success. TikTok filled the market that desired short-form content. When the app arrived on the scene, you had your pick of videos that were no more than 60 seconds long.
Plenty of users considered TikTok the new Vine. Many reminisced of the Vine days when sketches were only 7 seconds long, and you could spend hours consuming clip after clip. Since its early days, TikTok has gone a long way and implemented many changes, but it is still a fan-favorite app.
Instagram noted how users flocked to TikTok, and it decided to venture into short-form clip-making, too. So, it began to offer Reels so that users could upload videos up to 60 seconds long. It’s not a direct copy of TikTok, but you could certainly see the inspiration.
YouTube Shorts is the latest response to TikTok-like short-form content, and it also offers up to 60-second videos.
TikTok vs. Instagram Reels vs. YouTube Shorts: Video Length
Let’s start with video length.
Once upon a time, TikTok offered uploads of videos no more than 60 seconds long. Then, it upped the ante and allowed three-minute-long content, and recently, it raised the limit to ten minutes.
YouTube Shorts only allows clips up to a minute long for uploads. However, if you open the YouTube app and record a Shorts video through it, it can only be up to 15 seconds long.
Instagram Reels initially allowed up to 15-second clips. Then, that limit grew to 30 seconds and is now 60 seconds for both uploads and recordings.
Not much of a difference there, but it’s interesting to note that TikTok, the app that started the craze for short-form content, is switching it up and attempting to venture into long-form content.
After all, if you wanted to consume longer videos, wouldn’t you go to YouTube? Is TikTok encroaching on YouTube territory as YouTube encroached on TikTok’s with Shorts?
If you show a product in a clip and it goes viral, regardless of platform, people tend to head in droves to buy it.
With that in mind, it’s important to consider whether these apps support shopping links—can you add a link to a clip and have viewers be able to click it and make purchases?
TikTok has a Product Links feature that allows creators to showcase certain items within their clip—ones they’re talking about, using, or simply wish to include. Viewers can then see those items, click the tab, and make the purchase. This is convenience at its finest.
The app also offers TikTok Shopping, which lets you display a link that redirects viewers to one or more items. For example, if you’re doing a makeup tutorial, you can use the link to show people every product you’ve used on your face.
Anyone who wants to buy or, at least, explore these items can click the link and check them out without even leaving the TikTok app.
Instagram Reels: Yes
Instagram Reels Shopping allows creators to include shopping links for products from their Reels. Thus, allowing you to explore items without having to leave the app.
You can tap on the View Products button and buy, save, or learn more about the featured product. There’s even an option for you to purchase items without leaving Instagram at all.
Certain brands on the app, which have Instagram Checkout enabled, allow people to go through the entire purchase process while still on the app.
YouTube Shorts: No
YouTube Shorts currently doesn’t support shopping links, unlike Instagram Reels and TikTok. However, it does have plans to change that soon.
YouTube is testing out a shopping experience much like its competitors—being able to make purchases directly on the app without exiting it. The platform plans to roll out the new feature sometime in 2022. Time will tell whether that happens or not.
Unfortunately for YouTube Shorts, this is another section where the platform lags behind TikTok and Reels.
While Instagram Reels and TikTok offer various special effects you can include in your clips, YouTube Shorts does not.
TikTok has plenty of AR features and even green-screen options you can use to spice up your videos. Instagram Reels also offers a ton of filters to add some extra flair to your short-form content.
Both platforms also allow you to add stickers to your videos. Not only that, but you can also do polls and mentions, tag people, and add hashtags. YouTube Shorts simply doesn’t offer any of these said features.
TikTok vs. Instagram Reels vs. YouTube Shorts: User Friendliness
All three apps seem equal in this. They’re intuitive and easy to use, and even if you have questions, the Internet has answers. Across three platforms, it’s mostly a question of simply filming your clip, adding the sound and the effects you like, and posting it.
None of them stand out as particularly tough to learn or use. As a result, TikTok, Reels, and Shorts get equal points in this round.
Which Is the Best Short-Form Video App?
Unfortunately, there’s no straight-cut answer.
TikTok is always the first app to come out of people’s mouths when you mention short-form content, but how long will that last? Especially given how rapidly the other two apps have introduced and implemented changes.
What’s more, TikTok keeps increasing the allowed video length. It currently stands at 10 minutes long, indicating it’s venturing into deeper waters—long-form content. And, that’s YouTube’s domain.
Will TikTok manage to encroach on YouTube’s space enough to make a difference, or will it not even matter? Instagram managed to step into Snapchat’s territory and thrive while the other app is now in decline.
As these apps keep changing, time will show which one comes on top. As for now, the best one to use is simply the one that’s most convenient to you.