YouTube’s new “Clips” feature lets users share 60-second clips of videos
January 30, 2021
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YouTube is testing a feature popular from livestream platforms like Twitch: the ability for viewers and creators to make clips of longer videos, allowing for the sharing of short, bit-sized clips of a video. The feature is currently “in testing” with a small group of channels while YouTube gathers feedback.

Clips have a max of 60 seconds and can be created by pressing a new “Share Clip” button. From there, users will get a draggable timeline editor to make a clip, name it, and share it via a new URL. This video has clips enabled if you want to try it yourself. For now, the feature only works on a desktop browser, but Android and iOS support is coming “soon.”

Unlike Twitch, which creates a new video from a clip, a YouTube clip link will load the original video with a start and end point on the seek bar, and the ~60-second clip will loop between these two points. It seems somewhat similar to the ability to link to a timestamp in a video, just 60 seconds long and on a loop. A big, blue “Watch Full Video” button to the right of the video will start the full video, and since you’re already on the page with the video already loaded, your browser doesn’t actually go anywhere.

Another big change from Twitch is that YouTube clips from a channel aren’t publicly listed anywhere. One of the best features of Twitch clips is a “popular clips” section attached to every channel, which lists the recent top-viewed clips. The “popular clips” section on Twitch serves as a constantly updating, crowdsourced highlight reel and is a great way to get a sense of a new channel or catch up on major happenings. YouTube clips you’ve created are only listed privately in your account settings, making them more like a sharable, personal bookmark.

It’s not clear how clips will affect the YouTube ecosystem. Clips on a livestreaming platform like Twitch work because Twitch streams are hours long and not very sharable. All of that will certainly apply to YouTube livestreams, but you’ll also be able to make clips of non-livestreamed videos, too, and here YouTube differs from Twitch.

YouTubers tend to make carefully crafted ten-minute videos designed to please “The Algorithm,” YouTube’s recommendation engine, which is viewed as the best way of growing an audience. If someone makes a 60-second clip of a ten-minute video, and that goes viral instead of the video, is that good for the creator? A clip is a timestamp link to the original video, so creators will still get a view on the original video, but The Algorithm also scores creators on watch time and other metrics.

This is also going to mess with ad-reads. Bigger channels often include integrated ad-reads as part of the video, and clipping those out of a video and sharing a clip instead could harm creator income. Google says ads will appear on clips “as long as the original video is at least 30 seconds long,” so there is still some way to make money, but that makes YouTubers even more dependent on Google’s automatic ad program instead of third-party ad deals they can make with ad-reads.

Listing image by Rego Korosi / Flickr

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