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Instagram launches TikTok alternative, Reels

With TikTok’s future hanging in the balance, Instagram has rolled out a direct competitor.

Reels, which launched in the US and UK this week, is a new feature within Instagram which allows you to record 15-second videos in the app’s Camera and add music.

Users can edit the video within the app, changing speed, adding filters, timers, captions, hashtags, and a range of effects. They can use music from Instagram’s library or upload their own.

Reels can then be shared publicly, and featured in the Explore tab – similar to TikTok’s For You Page – or kept private. For people who only want to share with friends, Reels can be posted to your feed, added to your Story or sent via direct messages.

The launch of Reels comes at a troubling time for TikTok.

The company had experienced a meteoric rise, gaining more than 500 million users worldwide since it launched in 2016. Ofcom figures show an increase in UK users from 5.4 million in January to 12.9 million in April.

But, in spite of the app’s popularity as a creative outlet during the coronavirus pandemic, geopolitical developments have put its fate in jeopardy.

Under threat of international bans and suspicion of Chinese government influence, TikTok currently faces a potential ban in the US by President Donald Trump or a possible partial acquisition by Microsoft. The app has already been banned in India and it is under serious review in Australia too.

TikTok chief Kevin Mayer last week responded to the launch of Reels with a scathing attack on Facebook, who owns Instagram, accusing his rival of "maligning attacks" and developing "copycat products". Yesterday, it retweeted Instagram’s own launch post with the comment “well… this looks familiar”.

Instagram, however, has denied the launch is a response to the ongoing controversy around TikTok and defended it as a big part of the future of entertainment on Instagram, saying “With Reels, Stories, Live & IGTV, we’re excited to give people more ways to create and enjoy video the way they want.”

This is not the first time that Instagram has closely imitated one of its rivals. In 2016, it launched Instagram Stories, which seemed to clone the Snapchat feature. It proved so successful that it swiftly surpassed Snapchat in daily active users.

Instagram will be hoping Reels will emulate this model and continue to attract younger users.

However, parent company Facebook is apparently leaving nothing to chance: it’s been reported that it has offered “hundreds of thousands of dollars” to popular TikTokers to persuade them to use Reels.

Image: Instagram.com


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