Facebook, Instagram's parent company, smells techie blood in the water and is eager to take a bite out of TikTok. To that end, Instagram has announced a new feature to the platform called Reels — a way for people to create short videos up to 15 seconds long using tools to add audio, visual effects, and other little editing tricks. It launches today in over 50 countries for both iPhone and Android users, and it is a lot like TikTok.
How to make a Reel
All you need is your smartphone camera to get started. To make a Reel, head to the Instagram camera in the upper left of your home page and tap 'Reels' at the bottom. The left side of the screen should have a column of options that can help you record your video, edit multiple clips, and add images, effects, and music. If your account is public, other users can borrow your audio to use for their Reels as well; something that might be appealing for the music composers looking to put their names out there.
Who can see my Reels?
Both public and private accounts can make Reels. Public accounts can share their videos to the Explore page where people outside their follower circles can discover the videos. Private accounts can keep their videos private to their friends and don't have to worry about others sharing their Reels with folks they don't know.
How is Reels different from TikTok?
Reels stands apart from TikTok by being another part of Instagram, like Stories, instead of its own thing. If you already have a steady follower base or regularly post privately to your friends, Reels becomes more of an added bonus than another new thing you have to get used to. It's the company's way to keep its users on Instagram while inviting others to join, Instagram's product director, Robby Stein, told The Verge.
"I think TikTok deserves a ton of credit for popularizing formats in this space, and it's just great work," Stein said. "But at the end of the day, no two products are exactly alike, and ours are not either."
But let's be real, these two products are pretty damn similar. And Instagram's parent company, Facebook, is an infamous copycat within the tech industry. Facebook has been accused of using its size to unfairly squash or absorb smaller competitors, which can harm innovation in the field and prevent other new companies from stepping in and letting the market decide who succeeds or fails. Facebook has copied Snapchat by introducing Stories for Instagram and, allegedly, pressured Instagram's original founders to either sell or be destroyed — an issue that came up during the recent Big Tech antitrust hearings. Mark Zuckerberg was reportedly afraid of startups that were rising too fast for his liking.
A major new competitor launching right now is probably the worst timing for TikTok, as it deals with threats of a US ban from President Trump and a potential sale to Microsoft. Depending on the outcome of those issues, we'll find out soon what sort of competition Reels can expect.