YouTube piles on the AI sauce in an attempt to eat TikTok’s lunch

Happy Friday, it’s tech reporter Alexandra Sternlicht. 

Yesterday, I attended YouTube’s annual product hullabaloo Made on YouTube. The invite-only event reeled top creators like Alan Chikin Chow, and YouTube executives including CEO Neal Mohan and former CEO Susan Wojcicki to Google’s bougie Pier 57 event space. Aside from the DIY donut stations, DJ spinning Fred Again, and Hudson River views, the event was all about AI, and, to say the quiet part aloud: pushing YouTube into TikTok territory. 

“We’re committed to expanding creativity with AI technology in ways that are bold and responsible,” Mohan told the crowd. “We’re giving people around the world the ability to bring their dreams to life on-screen.”

YouTube’s AI products, which will be rolled out throughout the next year, include Dream Screen: fully customizable green screen backdrops for YouTube Shorts, automatic language dubbing with Aloud to lip sync videos into non-native languages, AI insights, and AI-assisted music search. (For the latter, YouTube imported popstar Charlie Puth and Warner Music Group’s CEO to assuage fears that AI music will be the death of creativity.)

That’s a whole lot of AI. Why? It’s very clear that YouTube is tapping the technology for entry-level creators to make compelling content. This chisels at a chief TikTok creator complaint: making TikToks is hard.

With YouTube going for easy-to-make, easy-to-use green screens, music, and analytics as well as a new mobile video editing app called YouTube Create (fair to assume a direct response to TikTok’s CapCut), YouTube wants to be the place for young and experimental creators. This could increase the volume of content on YouTube Shorts, allowing the company to further tweak the algorithm, attract ad revenue—and maybe do so without having to compensate these new creators who would be ineligible for the company’s historically lucrative YouTube Partner Program

On the flip side, TikTok is attempting uncharacteristic transparency, at least when it comes to AI. Earlier this week it rolled out tools that label AI-generated content and filters so that users don’t confuse things like fake Drake and the Bold Glamour filter with real content. 

“As more creators take advantage of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to enhance their creativity, we want to support transparent and responsible content creation practices,” TikTok said in the product announcement

So as YouTube tries to lure creators with AI while TikTok attempts to label it, the short-form video wars move to a new skirmish. And it might be the most important one of all.

Alexandra Sternlicht

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