Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles Short-form video has become the latest battleground in social media. And the three big players? TikTok, Instagram Reels, and YouTube Shorts. The next few years, it will be billions of dollars being poured into these platforms, trying to increase their reach, trying to increase the value for advertisers. So, let's compare them and see which one is winning over users so far and which one might come out on top. TikTok was the first of the three to burst onto the scene, but before TikTok, there was Vine, a popular short video service offered by Twitter. Vine was one of the first short video platforms to really grab the attention of young creators. After Twitter discontinued Vine in 2017, it created a big gap in the market that was prime for TikTok to exploit. TikTok enjoyed rapid growth in places like the US and India. And by February 2019, the app had been downloaded more than a billion times on Apple iOS and Android, according to app analytics site Sensor Tower. But in 2020, the narrative started to change. America and other countries went into lockdown because of the coronavirus. People started spending more time on TikTok and, all of a sudden, it seemed like the scrutiny on TikTok also increased. President Donald Trump voiced concern over the possibility that user data on TikTok could be shared with the Chinese government through the app's parent company ByteDance. We're looking at TikTok; we may be banning TikTok; we⏤ He launched a lengthy back-and-forth with TikTok and its Chinese parent ByteDance that never really reached resolution during his presidency, but had a really huge destabilizing effect on the app's position in the US. At the time, TikTok officials said that user data was held in servers in the US and Singapore and wouldn't be shared. In June 2020, India decided to ban TikTok. That's important because it presented a gap for rivals like Facebook and Google's YouTube to try to offer their own products in the market. And sure enough, in late 2020, Facebook and YouTube launched their own short video services. Snapchat also entered the mix with Spotlight, which offers a daily pool of more than 1 million dollars to users who create the most entertaining Snaps. Instagram and YouTube already had large built-in audiences, and TikTok had primed people to want this kind of short-form video. When Instagram and YouTube started rolling out their own services, they took off pretty quickly. Meta hasn't said how many monthly users interact with Reels, but Instagram passed two billion monthly active users last year, and in its April earnings call, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said, "Reels already makes up more than 20% of the time that people spend on Instagram." Google said in June that more than 1.5 billion people watch YouTube Shorts every month. TikTok said in September the app had drawn more than 1 billion monthly users. Third-party estimates have shown that number as high as 1.6 billion monthly users. The short video craze also inspired Pinterest to create Watch last year, where users can scroll through short videos and pictures. Netflix launched a feature called Fast Laughs that serves up short clips from Netflix shows. And even Twitter said in December that it was testing out an updated Explore tab to allow users to scroll through short-form video tweets. So, with all these options, which platform is the most popular among users? TikTok certainly seems like is still in the lead. If you look at the user data from digital intelligence company SimilarWeb, people say they're spending more time on TikTok than on the Instagram app or YouTube platform. That being said, Reels and Shorts are gaining very quickly. In a June survey by data platform company Inmar Intelligence, 44% of people picked TikTok as their preferred short-form video service, followed by 29% for YouTube Shorts and 20% for Instagram Reels. Another measure of success for these platforms? Advertising revenue. TikTok seems to be the farthest along in turning on advertising on the service. This year, they're projected to make about $12 billion in advertising revenue, up from $4 billion last year. TikTok partners with e-commerce platforms like Shopify to help businesses advertise directly through their Shopify dashboards. And earlier this year, in an effort to attract more advertisers, TikTok enabled first- and third-party cookies on top of its existing tools. YouTube Shorts only recently started allowing ads on the service. Reels is also more immature turning on ads on the service. But they're quickly catching up. Their parent companies, Google and Meta, are two of the largest online advertising companies in the world. It's a fairly safe assumption that they're putting a lot of effort behind getting digital ads on these services and making that a bigger part of their growth story for the future. Second place is still a close battle, but it appears that Shorts is gaining fast on TikTok based on viewer data Google released in June. Shorts began rolling out ads globally in May, and Google said it would eventually allow companies to make their ads shoppable, like on TikTok and Reels. It's still a little bit early to tell how that is going, but YouTube, right now, is looking for a new source of growth as revenue growth has been flagging, so, they're putting a lot of work into making Shorts a big advertisement platform. YouTube Shorts also has a unique advantage. It allows creators to use the analytics tools on YouTube's main platform, which provide data about who is watching videos. These tools help creators work with brands and prove the effectiveness of their sponsored content, but YouTube Shorts doesn't offer creators the same special effects options as TikTok. This spring, it rolled out new features, including one that lets users turn snippets of existing YouTube videos into Shorts, but it's still missing tools like this, which lets creators combine their video with one from another user. It's harder to pinpoint where Instagram Reels is in this race because Meta has been reluctant to release data about monthly active users on Reels. But in its July earnings call, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said the company saw, "... a more-than-30% increase in the time that people spend engaging with Reels across Facebook and Instagram." However, this is the first time that Meta has ever reported a decline in revenue, down almost 1% from the previous year. Earlier this month, Meta said it is reallocating resources from its Facebook News tab and newsletter platform Bulletin as part of a broader shift toward short-form video content creators that can compete with TikTok. The company also said Facebook's Home feed will be more personalized, featuring Reels and content driven by the platform's algorithm. As the race continues, TikTok remains a concern for some US lawmakers and users concerned about data privacy, but the company has taken steps to address this. In June, the company said that 100% of US user traffic was being routed to its partner Oracle, and TikTok said that while it still uses its own US and Singapore data centers as backup, it expects to delete US user data from its own data centers and migrate fully to Oracle servers. But for now, TikTok's algorithm still seems to attract more users among the short video platforms, and that might help it remain the front runner in this race.