Video-sharing social networking firm, Tik Tok, seems to have more competition as Facebook has rolled out its own version of the product in the United States and more than 50 other countries on Wednesday, August 5, 2020.
The social media platform called Reels is a feature within its popular Instagram app and it is embedded with a new short-form video service. Reels allows users to create 15-second clips, like TikTok, and share them publicly or with friends within the Instagram app.
The introduction of this new service, Reels, is coming at the time that TikTok is facing a lot of scrutiny in the United States and days after Tech giant, Microsoft said it was in talks to buy TikTok’s US operations from China’s ByteDance.
ByteDance, acting under pressure from the US government, has agreed to divest parts of TikTok due to threats of being banned by the Trump administration.
With the launch of Reels, the dispute between Facebook and TitTok will get worse with each of them labelling the other as a threat. The 2 social media firms are eager to attract American teenagers, many of whom have been using TikTok for the past 2 years.
Reels was first tested in Brazil in 2018 before it subsequently moved to France, Germany and India. India was TikTok’s biggest market until the Indian government banned it last month due to a border dispute with the Chinese government. Facebook also tried out a standalone app called Lasso, but its acceptability was quite low.
Facebook, owner of Instagram, has a poor track record of cloning popular social media apps. The company has had much better success adding popular features from rivals into Instagram and the regular Facebook app, like when it added the Stories feature based on Snapchat.
The similarities between the 2 firms have led the Chief Executive Officer of TikTok, Kevin Mayer, to refer to Facebook’s Reel as a copycat product that will make use of Instagram’s enormous existing user base after their other copycat service, Lasso, failed quickly.
The vice president of products at Instagram, Vishal Shah, acknowledged the similarities of both services in a video conference call with reporters on Tuesday, saying that inspiration for the products comes from everywhere including Facebook’s teams and the ecosystem in general.
The company said that Reels gives people new ways to express themselves, discover more of what they love on Instagram and help anyone with the ambition of becoming a creator take centre stage.
Instagram has no immediate plans of offering advertising or other ways for users to make money through Reels, although it recruited young online stars to test the product ahead of launch.
Facebook’s Instagram is launching Reels at a vulnerable time for its biggest competitor, TikTok. Microsoft has since emerged as the frontrunner to acquire a majority stake in TikTok’s US operations, following their divestment plans and could conclude talks within 3 weeks.