TikTok is experimenting with longer-form, three-minute videos

Did anyone actually want this?

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The TikTok logo is pictured outside the company's U.S. head office in Culver City, California, U.S.,  September 15, 2020.   REUTERS/Mike Blake
Mike Blake / reuters

The beauty of TikToks is that they're (usually) never long enough to overstay their welcome, but a new report suggests the company behind the app is mulling a big change. Per a tweet shared by social media consultant (and former Next Web journalist) Matt Navarra, TikTok is beginning to offer some users the ability to upload videos as long as three minutes, up from the app's classic 60-second limit.

The language used in Navarra's image makes clear this change is still in the "early access" phase, so most users won't notice a difference unless they stumble upon a longer-than-usual video. That said, this slow rollout seems to have been happening for a few weeks, and a handful of users were quick to chronicle their discoveries on Twitter. So far, the near-universal reaction largely boils down to: "WTF?"

This sort of reaction is about what you’d expect. After all, the heart of the TikTok experience has been feeding users a stream of binge-able, algorithmically curated content — the kind that doesn’t last long temporally but sticks with you for a while anyway. It’s also worth noting that TikTok stars itching to grow their followings haven’t just embraced the app’s video length limits; they’ve pioneered new on-screen tropes and conventions to make the most of those 60 seconds. In doing so — and like it or not — those creators helped shape a new generation of visual communication.

By upping the time limit to three minutes, TikTok is giving its fans more space to create — but there are also plenty of risks involved.

This change, for instance, may dilute some of the punchiness that made the app so successful. We’ve already seen one company waste hundreds of millions of dollars developing content that’s longer than TikTok’s but (generally) shorter than YouTube’s. (Quibi, we hardly knew you.) As some of these tweets suggest, the change is also at least initially somewhat jarring. Presumably, TikTok’s cautious rollout is designed in part to ease people into seeing longer videos, though whether people will watch them is a slightly different story. The most common joke about TikTok is that it ruins people’s attention spans, so it remains to be seen how the company’s hundreds of millions of monthly active users, all of whom have been trained to digest very short videos, will react to a change like this as a whole. If the company’s cautious rollout continues like this, it may be a while before we find out.

We've reached out to TikTok for comment, and will update this story if they respond.

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