YouTube’s “copy the hot new video site” strategy is ending the way it often does—with a shutdown. This time it’s killing off “YouTube Stories,” a Snapchat clone the company launched in 2017 under the name “Reels” and later renamed to YouTube Stories in 2018. A YouTube support article details the shutdown and says that June 26 will be the last day to upload a story.
YouTube Stories always had a weird footprint that made it easy to miss. It was mobile-only, and visiting a channel page would show a “stories” tab, or sometimes they would show up in your mobile subscription feed. Just like Snapchat, the videos auto-deleted after seven days. That made them a strange choice for creators usually looking to broadcast to a wide audience since it cut off the long tail of historical video views. Whatever the actual usage of YouTube Stories was, the auto-delete feature means it’s normal for channels to have zero visible stories at any given time.
As the world’s biggest video site, YouTube doesn’t have much room for organic growth and instead spends its time cloning any upstart video sites that might eat into its view time. In 2015, there was YouTube Gaming, a Twitch clone that brought gaming livestreams and a new game-centric homepage to YouTube. The YouTube Gaming app and the gaming homepage were shut down in 2019, but many features survive as part of YouTube today, like low-latency livestreams and chat features.
YouTube Originals was a swing at Netflix, and it saw YouTube produce scripted Hollywood-style shows or big-budget content starring popular YouTubers. These more premium videos were exclusive for subscribers to the $12-a-month YouTube Red subscription (later renamed to YouTube Premium), which also offers ad-free viewing. YouTube Originals lasted from 2016-2022.
Google’s new fling is YouTube Shorts, a clone of TikTok. This is a mobile-centric bite-sized video format that’s addictive to swipe through. This one is still kicking, and if government TikTok bans ever get more popular, Google looks ready to step in immediately. Shorts today are not all that different from Stories, with various text and filters available, they just don’t expire automatically.
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