Links on Android Authority may earn us a commission. Learn more.
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 started the short video trend, 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.
Read more: YouTube Music vs YouTube Premium: What’s the difference?
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.
JUMP TO KEY SECTIONS
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 experience in short-form video. Here’s what we like about it:
YouTube Shorts definitely has some advantages over TikTok, and it’s mostly in terms of control. Here’s what we like about Shorts.
Instagram is similar to TikTok, with slightly different controls and trends.
Up next: The best TikTok alternatives for Android