You may know them better as the “@” symbol that appears before a username. When this feature launches(opens in new tab), you’ll be able to mention content creators or other users to “increase [a video’s] visibility and [help it reach] new audiences.” YouTube did implement something similar a while back. Creators could shout out other channels in video titles and descriptions(opens in new tab) or have people mention other users in live chats, but that’s as far as it went.
Handles, on the other hand, will be used in more locations like YouTube Shorts, channel pages, video descriptions, comments, and even in the channel’s URL. With regards to custom URLs, it appears that Google may be getting rid of them in favor of handles. A YouTube Help page(opens in new tab) reveals channels can no longer set up custom URLs or change them, but they’ll still be supported when the new feature launches.
Launching in waves
Handles will be rolling out in phases, according to YouTube. Throughout the rest of October, creators will be notified (either through email or YouTube Studio) when they’ll be able to create their handles so they can claim them before anybody else can. Channels that already have a custom URL will automatically be switched over to the new system. That unique URL will be the handle moving forward.
According to a different YouTube Help page(opens in new tab), which channels get first pick “depends on a number of factors” like presence on the platform, subscriber count, and how active the channel is. Presumably, the biggest channels will be first. There are also hopes the handles feature will cut down on channel impersonators. YouTube wants to ensure you, the viewer, are interacting with the right creator.
Channels will have until November 14 to choose their unique handles, after which, YouTube will create one for you, but they are not set in stone. At any point, you can head on over to the Handle page(opens in new tab) and change it.
Looking at this feature, we can’t help but feel that this is yet another attempt at competing with TikTok. The platform has its own version of handles, so it makes sense that YouTube would eventually copy it.
Plus, YouTube Shorts has been pretty successful. Alphabet CEO Sunder Pichat claims the new video format gets over a billion views daily. As a result, YouTube has been consistently supporting Shorts, adding new features almost every month and allowing users to monetize their content.
Compared to Meta’s Instagram Reels, Shorts is arguably TikTok’s true rival. It’ll be interesting to see how YouTube continues to build it and what Meta’s response will be. Forcing Reels on people has backfired, so a different approach may be in order.