Facebook has rolled out its version of social networking TikTok in over 50 other countries, including the United States. The new short-form video service named Reels sits within the Instagram app.
The introduction comes days after Microsoft said it was in talks to acquire TikTok’s US operations from ByteDance. China-based ByteDance has agreed to divest portions of TikTok, sources have said, under significant pressure by the White House which has threatened to ban it along with other Chinese-owned platforms over information security issues.
The launching of Reels escalates a bruising fight between Facebook and TikTok, with every casting the other as a threat. Both have been eager to attract American teens, a lot of whom have flocked to TikTok at the last couple of decades.
Reels was first analysed in Brazil in 2018 and then afterwards in France, Germany and India, that was TikTok’s biggest market until the Indian government banned it following a border clash with China. Facebook also tried out a standalone app called Lasso which didn’t gain much traction.
Similar to TikTok, Reels users can record short vertical videos that are mobile-friendly add special effects and soundtracks pulled out of a music library.
Those similarities directed TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer to label Reels a “copycat product” that could coast on Instagram’s enormous existing user base after “their other copycat Lasso failed quickly.”
Facebook faced similar charges at a congressional hearing on US tech companies’ alleged abuse of market power last week, with lawmakers suggesting the company has copied rivals like Snapchat for anti-competitive reasons.
Vishal Shah, Instagram’s vice president of product, acknowledged the similarities in a Tuesday video conference call with reporters and said that “inspiration for products comes from anywhere,” including Facebook’s teams and “the ecosystem more broadly.”
Instagram is not yet planning to offer advertising or other ways for users to make money through Reels, although it did recruit young online stars like dancer Merrick Hanna and musician Tiagz – who was recently signed by Sony/ATV after rising to fame via TikTok memes – to test the product ahead of launch.
The company paid the creators for production costs, Shah said.
Joe Gagliese, CEO of influencer marketing agency Viral Nation, said Reels was poised to mimic Instagram’s success with Stories, a product modelled on Snapchat’s core offering.
“They’re a massive monstrous threat [to TikTok],” he said.
“The present turmoil could not be playing more into [Instagram’s] court to launch this item.”
The team at Platform Executive hope you have enjoyed the ‘[post_title]’ article. Initial reporting via our content partners at Thomson Reuters. Reporting by Katie Paul; Additional reporting by Sheila Dang. Editing by Greg Mitchell and Edwina Gibbs.
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