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TikTok vs YouTube Shorts vs Instagram/Facebook Reels
Bite-sized videos are a huge thing on the Internet these days. The trend started with TikTok and has expanded to YouTube, Instagram, and a few other places. It’s so popular that TikTok overtook Google as the number one most popular website in 2021. People seem to really like them, and it doesn’t seem like a passing trend anymore. It’s true that Vine and other services had short videos before, but none of them have seen the success of TikTok, YouTube Shorts, Facebook Reels, and Instagram Reels.
No matter which platform you choose, you get the same kind of stuff. Short videos that you can scroll through quickly and share with your friends. We’ll take a look at the three biggest platforms and see if any of them stand out from the others.
The primary difference between TikTok vs YouTube Shorts vs Instagram/Facebook Reels is simply what else the platforms have, along with how the algorithm chooses videos for you to watch. The platforms are remarkably similar in terms of pure content selection, UI, and controls.
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Basic comparison and stats
|TikTok||YouTube Shorts||Instagram/Facebook Reels|
Maximum video length
60 seconds (Facebook)
90 seconds (Instagram)
Video captions (from creator)
Yes, icon to activate is above the creator name in most videos.
Yes, click 3-dot menu and tap the "Captions" option.
Yes, but only if the creators add it.
Sort of. Click the 3-dot menu and select "Don't recommend this channel".
Yes. Facebook has a "Hide Reel" option. Instagram has a "Not Interested" option.
Kind of. You can request to download your personal data from TikTok in the Settings.
Yes. Open the app, tap your profile picture, and select "Your data on YouTube".
Kind of. You can request and download your personal data from Instagram or Facebook in the Settings.
Number of users
Over one billion as of 2022.
YouTube itself has over two billion users as of 2022.
Instagram Reels has over two billion users as of 2022. Facebook Reels is unknown.
Number of daily views
1 billion views, daily.
15 billion views, daily.
Instagram and Facebook don't report daily view numbers, but 91% of its two billion users watch at least one every week.
Native monetization for creators
TikTok has a creator fund with $300 million going out to creators as of 2021.
YouTube has a $100 million creator fund as of 2022.
Instagram and Facebook says they plan to invest over $1 billion in its creators in 2022.
Dominant age demographic
Ages 10-29, 47%
Ages 15-35, 77%
Ages 18-34, 61%
Gender demographics (viewership)
As of 2022.
As of 2022.
As of 2022.
Most popular creator
- TikTok has no distractions from its main content. You open the app and immediately start watching videos.
- Sharing videos between TikTok users is super easy.
- Some creators allow you to download clips for personal use.
- The algorithm provides a surprisingly good mix of stuff it knows you like, with a sprinkle of new stuff every now and then.
- Advertising is there, but it’s non-intrusive. You can simply flick them away when you want to.
- TikTok’s frenetic nature makes you feel like you’re always in the thick of the action.
- Viral sound clips become very old, very quickly. It’s not uncommon to see a dozen or more of the same viral audio clip in the same browsing session.
- There is nothing else to do if you get bored watching just TikToks.
- While this part is improving, the search function is rough to use unless you know the exact name of what you’re looking for.
- Your feed is heavily influenced by what your friends share with you, for better or for worse.
TikTok is an enjoyable place to spend some time. The UI is simple and gets out of your way. You open the app, scroll through videos, and close out when you’re done. The advertising gets slotted into line with your regular feed, and they’re very easy to scroll passed. Sharing with other TikTok users is super fast and easy. In terms of usability, TikTok does almost nothing wrong.
The algorithm does an excellent job of showing you a mix of things it knows you like and random stuff. It then uses your reactions to the random stuff to tune your feed to increase the variety of videos it shows you. It only took a couple of weeks before I was being shown comedy sketches, home DIY stuff, and sports highlight clips.
I never feel like I'm being left out of anything on TikTok, despite putting in zero effort to keep up with trends. The app does all the work. I just sit there and watch.
After a while, it added cute animal videos, thanks to my wife. Recently, it also began adding animal facts thanks to another friend. Toss in the latest viral sound clip trends and some extra random stuff, and I have what I consider a pretty well-rounded feed.
The only real downsides to TikTok are also part of its upsides. My wife is a huge fan of cute animal and lip-syncing videos, which she shares with me consistently. Thus, my feed has a healthy dose of cute animal and lip-syncing videos, even though I don’t care much about lip-syncing videos. Your feed is influenced by your friends, so if your friends share nonsense that you don’t like, you’ll see more of that nonsense later.
Of course, the biggest upside to TikTok is how frenetic it is. It always feels like something is happening there, and it has no problems including you in it. Sure, that sometimes means seeing 70 TikToks about corn over the span of a few days, which gets understandably repetitive. That said, TikTok ensures its users are always in the thick of the action, so you never feel like you’re missing anything.
Read more: What is TikTok and how to use it?
- Those who get bored of Shorts can easily transition to regular YouTube for longer videos.
- Creators can choose to upload a Shorts video or a full video, giving creators more variety in their content.
- The algorithm tends to stick with what you like, and the “Do Not Recommend Channel” option helps you filter out the stuff you don’t like.
- Most of the popular creators on TikTok also have YouTube, so the content is largely the same.
- Existing YouTube users can get in on the short-form video thing without downloading another app.
- YouTube Shorts has about the same amount of non-invasive advertising as TikTok. YouTube Premium removes all advertising.
- The algorithm occasionally gets stuck showing you the same two or three genres over and over again. Getting new stuff comes in waves, rather than consistently, like TikTok.
- There was a week span during my usage where I saw the exact same 10-second Middle Eastern street food video over 100 times from about 20 different channels. It took a week of reporting and hitting “Do Not Recommend This Channel” to get it to stop.
- Some regular YouTube creators trying to expand into Shorts don’t necessarily pass the vibe check. Some use Shorts for advertising longer videos, or simply don’t make Shorts that work well with the short-form format. This is much more common on YouTube.
I’m not sure if it’s because YouTube had view data on me previously, but my feed is vastly different on YouTube than it is on TikTok. I see a lot more cooking and tech Shorts than anything else, so it feels like an extension of my current YouTube experience rather than something fresh and new. It did eventually add comedy and home DIY stuff, but it took longer than expected.
The major drawbacks, in my experience, are legacy creators adapting poorly to the platform and some algorithmic weirdness. There are exceptions to this, like MrBeast, who has adapted wonderfully, but a lot of the old-hat YouTube creators just don’t post a lot of stuff that vibes well with the other stuff on YouTube Shorts.
YouTube Shorts has way more power user tools, like easy-to-find watch history. It helps set it apart from the competition.
In terms of the algorithm, it’s been cleaned up a lot in the last few months, but it still has a tendency to show me the same video I previously watched, but from a different YouTube channel. I’ve also noticed a lot of famous TikTok videos being uploaded by random YouTube accounts, which is not great to see.
I do still enjoy my YouTube Shorts experience, but for different reasons. I like that the topics are a bit more catered to my tastes. Of course, the downside to that insulation is that you never really get to keep up with the latest YouTube Shorts trends. From here, it’s a matter of preference. Some people don’t want to see the latest trends and only want to see their interests. YouTube Shorts is for those people.
- There are other things to do aside from watching short videos. Instagram has photos, and Facebook has posts, videos, and your news feed content.
- Facebook Reels are viewable on Instagram and vice versa. You don’t need both.
- Also, like YouTube, creators cross-post between here, so most of the most popular TikTok content is also here.
- Facebook and Instagram maintain separate algorithms, so you may have two very different feeds if you use both.
- Instagram Reels is just as easy to share with other Instagram users as TikTok is with other TikTok users.
- The algorithm does a decent job of showing you stuff you like and new stuff once it learns your likes.
- Facebook Reels had the least advertising out of any of the short-form video platforms. In fact, I can’t recall seeing a single Facebook Reel ad.
- Instagram users have to switch to Facebook to comment on Facebook Reels and vice versa.
- Instagram had the most advertising out of all the services I tried.
- The controls aren’t the same between Facebook and Instagram. For example, Facebook Reels lets you pause videos by tapping on the screen. Instagram makes you tap and hold to freeze videos.
- Instagram Reels has the worst desktop support of any service on this list.
- Instagram habitually pushes influencers and brands to make itself appear hip and cool, but the whole influencer thing is starting to get old. It often comes off as trying too hard to be cool.
Instagram Reels and Facebook Reels live under the same umbrella but feel very different. Getting to the brass tacks, Instagram Reels feels like an actual TikTok competitor. It’s always trying to get you the latest trends. The controls are similar, and sharing with other Instagram users is the same process as on TikTok.
Facebook Reels, on the other hand, feels almost like an afterthought. Instagram puts Reels at the front and center of its platform. Meanwhile, it’s so easy to miss that Facebook even has Reels that I wouldn’t even blame you if you didn’t know Facebook had them.
Despite living under the same umbrella, Facebook Reels and Instagram Reels are two very different animals.
There are some similarities. Facebook and Instagram largely share content. Sure, you can’t comment on Instagram Reels from Facebook and vice versa. However, you can fully dive into one and get content from both. The only real differences are the algorithm and some of the controls.
Instagram seems to push popular content a lot, as TikTok does. It’ll show you stuff based on your interests, and it even does a good job if your interests are niche. For example, I see more D&D content on Instagram than on TikTok. Still, with Instagram’s influencer vibe, it feels like Instagram takes a slightly larger role in determining what’s popular on their platform versus something like TikTok.
You can quite literally use Facebook for days or even weeks without knowing the platform has Reels.
On the other hand, Facebook doesn’t seem like it cares about popularity. It’s honestly kind of refreshing. It identifies things that you like, hones in on it super hard, and that’s what you see. Does it mean I get kind of burned out on my own interests? Yes, and it means I don’t use Facebook as often. Still, the certainty means I know exactly what I’m getting as soon as I log on.
In short, Instagram and Facebook perform the task of showing short-form videos. They just do it very differently. Instagram has a higher focus on trends and influencers, for better or for worse. Facebook is just kind of there, showing you stuff it knows you like. Of all the services, Instagram is the one I liked the least.
Read more: How to make a Reel on Instagram
Which one is the best?
This is tough to answer without taking into account a variety of factors. For example, the people you interact with on each platform can have an effect on what you see. My wife sends me tons of TikTok videos of “married life” jokes and cute animals. Thus, TikTok shows me a lot of that kind of content. Meanwhile, my Facebook friends send me many comedy videos, so my Facebook Reels tend to show me more stand-up comedian clips. Where the algorithms start, whether or not that service has data on you already, and many other things can help determine your experience.
TikTok is the best overall
TikTok is the best overall experience in short-form video. Here’s what we like about it:
- Tiktok’s responsive algorithm shows you things you like but also keeps you right in the middle of the action.
- The usability is the easiest. Open, scroll, close. Sharing is easy. Everything is easy. There is a reason the other services copied how TikTok does things.
- The community aspect is much better. Stitching, reacting, filters, live videos, and other tools give creators a variety of ways to interact with each other and their viewers.
- It feels like the most coherent service overall. It just works.
YouTube Shorts is best for power users
YouTube Shorts definitely has some advantages over TikTok, and it’s mostly in terms of control. Here’s what we like about Shorts.
- Users have a lot more control. For example, there’s a “Do Not Recommend This Channel” option to help tune your feed.
- Users have more tools. Another example is that you have full access to your watch history 24/7/365 without needing to request all your data as you do with the other services.
- You can switch back to regular YouTube, giving you a ton of extra content to watch.
- YouTube Premium removes ads from Shorts, so it adds a bit of value to the subscription.
Instagram Reels is best for people who hate TikTok
Instagram is similar to TikTok, with slightly different controls and trends.
- There is other content outside of Reels in case you get bored with Reels.
- The algorithm does a good job of finding your interests, even if some of them are niche.
- You get 99.9% of the TikTok experience without telling people that you use TikTok.
- Instagram has a much faster general pace than TikTok, thanks to its 90-second maximum time versus TikTok’s three minute maximum time and its backlog of 15-second videos back when Reels could only be that long.
Facebook Reels is best for people who dabble
- Facebook keeps Reels out of the way, so you only engage with it when you want to. This works well for people who like the idea, but don’t want to engage with it all the time.
- The algorithm almost exclusively caters to your interests, with fewer trends and new stuff.
- Facebook has a ton of other content. There are videos, regular posts, groups, and a lot of other things to engage with.
- I can’t remember seeing a single advertisement in six months of usage. Facebook Reels has the fewest ads of any of the services unless you buy YouTube Premium.