Facebook takes on TikTok with Instagram Reels

6 Aug 2020

Instagram Reels. Image: Instagram

Facebook’s latest product launch, Instagram Reels, is targeting users who enjoy sharing TikTok-style short-form videos.

In the US, there is still uncertainty about the future of short-form video platform TikTok. At the beginning of the week, US president Donald Trump appeared to approve of Microsoft’s potential purchase of the Chinese social media company – as long as the US benefits from the deal.

Either way, Trump gave TikTok until 15 September to work out an acquisition deal in the US or be banned from the nation entirely.

As pressure mounts for the Chinese app, Facebook has used this opportunity to launch Instagram Reels, a new feature where users can create and discover short, entertaining videos, in a similar manner to TikTok.

Instagram Reels

In a statement, Facebook-owned Instagram described Reels as way to create 15-second multi-clip videos with audio, effects and new creative tools. The short videos can be shared with friends or the wider Instagram community if a user has a public account.

There is a new Reels section on the Instagram Explore page, which “offers anyone the chance to become a creator on Instagram and reach new audiences on a global stage”, the company said.

To make a Reel, users just select the Reels option at the bottom of the Instagram camera menu, where they will find editing tools, augmented reality effects, a timer, audio and speed options.

One major difference between Facebook’s new product and competitor TikTok is that the Chinese video-sharing platform allows for videos up to one minute in length. TikTok also enables users to scroll seamlessly from one video to the next, with little obstruction from advertisements in between.

It appears that Reels has many similar features to TikTok, as seen in early reviews of the new tool. Reviews also suggest that it could be a hit with people who primarily use Instagram and want to keep all their social media activity in one app. However, it may not be enough to tempt users to flock from TikTok, which has around 800m active global users.

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic