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YouTube Shorts is not all bad. The problem lies with Google.

Some people love YouTube Shorts. Others hate it with a vehement passion.

Me? I sit somewhere in the middle.

I don’t want to like YouTube Shorts, and I hate how hard Google is trying to push it. But Shorts are actually not all bad. I even find them somewhat interesting at times.

The problem is that it is run and developed by a company that failed to learn from its past mistakes. A company that is increasingly showing signs of regression into a mindless copycat. Always chasing after the latest trends, constantly regurgitating nothing but bad imitations and cheap knockoffs.

What are YouTube Shorts?

YouTube Shorts is Google’s controversial (and some would say misguided) attempt at replicating and competing against TikTok’s success.

Shorts is the spot to shoot, share and binge short videos (think 60 seconds or less) on YouTube. It’s where you can go to start trends, try out a dance challenge, bring your hilarious ideas to life, and more.

So join in the fun and connect with fans and friends who will love what you’re putting out there. No fancy equipment needed and no limit on what you can create.

YouTube Shorts lets you shoot and share vertical videos from the camera that you carry everywhere: your phone.

YouTube Creators, last viewed 10 May 2023.

What I like about YouTube Shorts.

Shorts videos are vertical and well-suited to mobile screens.

This can be good or bad depending on how you prefer to browse YouTube.

Personally, I love the idea of having a dedicated section in YouTube for vertical videos, which I find more visually appealing on a mobile device.

Especially when it comes to food-related Shorts. The food always looks closer and more delicious to me in the vertical format when browsing on my phone.

Too bad the decision makers at Google decided to force both desktop and mobile users to embrace YouTube Shorts, whether they want to or not.

Shorts videos are limited to 60 seconds or less.

This is one of the very few things Google has gotten right with Shorts in my opinion.

I went looking for knife sharpening videos the other day, and this is a screenshot of what YouTube recommended:

A screenshot of my YouTube recommendations for the search term "knife sharpening".
Screenshot taken on 11 May 2023.

When I need a knife sharpened fast, even a 5-minute video is borderline too long. All I need is a quick rundown on how to apply a knife to a whetstone, which I am confident can be conveyed in under a minute.

I most certainly would not want to spend 20 to 30 minutes watching someone talk, and sitting through 2 to 4 advertisements and maybe even a sponsored segment.

If you check out the shortest video (2:27) in the above screenshot, the top-rated comments are all thanking the creator for being straightforward and concise:

A screenshot of some top-rated YouTube comments thanking the video creator for being straightforward and concise.
Screenshot taken on 12 May 2023.

I don’t care much for dank memes or any of those brain-dead challenges or short-lived (and potentially life-shortening) trends. But there is a real and dire need for more quick, concise, and informational content on YouTube.

And short videos with an upper limit of 60 seconds are the perfect fit!

It’s just really unfortunate how insistent Google is on pushing Shorts to become the go-to TikTok alternative. YouTube creators are actually being encouraged to flood the platform with a stream of trivial and idiotic Shorts with no value or substance.

What I hate about YouTube Shorts.

Author’s note: I can only discuss these issues as a viewer because I have no experience creating or editing YouTube Shorts.

To learn more about YouTube Shorts from a creator’s perspective, go read the Tumblr post written by TBSkyen. He posted a Shorts video that went viral in the worst way possible, and it made things really unpleasant and stressful.

YouTube is constantly flogging people with Shorts.

Remember what happened when Google created a social media knockoff called “Google+”, and tried to shoehorn it into YouTube and a number of other services?

Google+ was killed off in 2019 after hanging on for 8 long years, and ended up buried forever in the Google graveyard.

Good riddance.

Now Google is back to its old tricks, creating a TikTok knockoff in 2021 and calling it “YouTube Shorts”.

And they are once again foisting it upon YouTube users, this time by polluting the home and subscription page with ever-increasing Shorts recommendations.

Some companies never learn, do they?

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make the horse drink.

Things could’ve turned out very differently (i.e. better) if Google had decided to make Shorts less obtrusive. Because nobody in their right mind would be happy to see a bunch of unsolicited recommendations mixed into their regular YouTube feed.

YouTube’s in-feed advertisements were already bad enough (NSFL warning). With the indoctrination of YouTube Shorts, we now have to scroll past ten times the crap.

A more effective approach could be to consolidate all Shorts-related content into its very own tab, preferably with an isolated feed. It would be easy to ignore, but is still perfectly accessible for anyone who likes the TikTok-esque format.

That would make Shorts so much more tolerable.

Shorts will autoplay the moment you open the mobile app.

I have made it a habit to always, ALWAYS back out of a Shorts video, or switching away from the Shorts tab before closing my YouTube app. Because if I forget, a random Shorts video will start playing the moment I reopen the app.

And I find that extremely off-putting.

Autoplaying videos are an egregious waste of mobile data, and has startled me a few times too many. Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer to have full control over when and what video I choose to play, thank you very much.

If I wanted to mindlessly scroll through an endlessly autoplaying addiction feed, I would’ve gone to TikTok. I don’t and I didn’t, and that is why I stuck with YouTube.

Now Google is forcing their TikTok ripoff straight into my YouTube home page.

Way to go, Google. Now go the fuck away.

And take your TikTok mimic with you.

You can’t save Shorts videos directly to a playlist.

When I find an interesting or inspirational cooking video through YouTube Shorts, I want to save it to a playlist for future reference.

Problem is, it takes a rather convoluted process to add a Shorts video to a playlist.

You have to go to the “Library” tab on your YouTube app, find the Shorts video you just watched in your “Watch history”, tap on the corresponding three-dot icon of the video, and choose “Save to playlist”.

That’s a lot of unnecessary steps.

With regular YouTube videos, I can easily save them to a playlist using the option right below the video. So why is the same option not available with Shorts?

Update May 2024: I just recently discovered it is now possible to save Shorts videos to your YouTube playlist. At least they are still trying to make improvements to the platform!

Shorts has an absolutely awful user interface.

The missing “Save to playlist” option is not the only issue I have with Shorts:

  • Unless you pause the video, Shorts will keep on looping and playing. Forever.
  • You can’t scroll through the timeline in the video progress bar. (Well – you sort of can in the YouTube mobile app, but not for desktop users.)
  • Neither can you skip a few seconds forwards or backwards.
  • So if you missed something, there is no going back. You have to sit through the entire recording anyway and wait for it to loop. 60 seconds feels like an eternity when you have to rewatch the same dumb sequence over and over again.
  • The title overlay and icons remain perpetually on-screen, constantly obstructing whatever you watch.
  • There is no option to select your preferred video quality or resolution.
  • There is also no secondary volume controls.

Google chose to disregard all the improvements they made to YouTube’s regular video interface in favor of a perfect TikTok replica. How mortifying it is to see one of the best tech companies in the world taking larger and larger strides backwards.

A simple workaround for YouTube Shorts.

Sometimes I come across a great Short that is genuinely worth sharing (Shocker, I know!). But I don’t want anyone to watch it the way Google intended – through the intentionally awful Shorts interface.

Fortunately, there is a simple workaround we can use to watch Shorts videos using the regular YouTube interface – by making use of its video ID.

What are YouTube video IDs?

Every YouTube video is associated with its own unique video ID.

The ID is a string of about 11 characters that uniquely identifies the video you are watching. It usually looks like a garbled string of text, e.g. dQw4w9WgXcQ.

The video ID can be identified through the link or URL of a YouTube video.

  • For regular YouTube videos, the video ID is specified as a query parameter value associated with the key “v”:[video ID].
  • For YouTube Shorts, the video ID is specified as a path under the “/shorts” subdirectory:[video ID].
  • To share a YouTube video, you can use a shortened URL that contains the video ID as a path under the “/” root directory:[video ID].

You can go watch Tom Scott’s explanation (with the video ID of gocwRvLhDf8) to learn more about YouTube’s video ID system.

How to watch Shorts without the Shorts interface.

The main method.

Simply change the URL format of a YouTube Shorts video into the regular video URL format. It might sound complex, but all you need to do is copy the video ID from the following YouTube Shorts URL structure:

Then paste the video ID to the end of the regular YouTube video URL:

And voilà! You have a link that allows you to watch a Shorts video using the regular YouTube video interface. This trick works no matter if you’re browsing YouTube on a desktop browser or a mobile app.

The alternate approach.

The aforementioned method may be good and all, but it can be rather prone to manual mistakes or errors. E.g. if you copied an incomplete video ID, you end up with a broken link.

If you happen to be browsing YouTube on your computer, a more reliable approach would be to right-click the Shorts video and select the option to “Copy video URL”.

This will generate a shortened URL that looks like this:

The above URL should redirect us to a page where we can watch the Shorts video using the regular YouTube interface.

This approach still works at the time of writing this blog post.

If you are browsing YouTube on a mobile or touchscreen app, there is no shortcut that I know of. You would have to tap on the “Share” icon, then copy, paste, and edit the Shorts URL manually, which can be a pain on mobile devices.

To make life easier for everyone, I have created a conversion tool to quickly & reliably convert a YouTube Shorts link to a regular YouTube link.

If it succeeds, the URL will be copied to your clipboard automatically.

Paste your YouTube Shorts link below:
Waiting for YouTube Shorts link…
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