Instagram Launches 'Uncannily Similar' TikTok Rival

Reels also allows users to share 15-second videos
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 5, 2020 3:32 PM CDT
New Instagram Feature Is 'Basically TikTok'
Instagram Reels is displayed on a mobile phone on Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020 in New York.   (AP Photo/Tali Arbel)

Instagram has launched its own rival to TikTok—days after President Trump gave TikTok's owners a deadline either sell its US operations to a US firm or have the app shut down. The new feature, Reels, is part of Instagram instead of a standalone app, but it strongly resembles TikTok in other ways, CNBC reports. As with its rival, Reels users can create 15-second videos and share them either publicly or with friends. The feature also allows people to overlay music and effects in much the same way as TikTok. It first appeared in Brazil last year and was launched in 50 countries, including the US, Wednesday. Some reactions:

  • "TikTok, but on Instagram." "There are a few small differences, but Reels is "basically ... TikTok, but on Instagram, writes Rebecca Jennings at Vox. They are "for the most part, functionally identical, and Instagram is positioning it as such: as a place to hop onto trending memes and dances, to create goofy content, and perhaps, ultimately, to find fame."

  • "Uncannily similar." "It really is an uncannily similar product," writes Stephanie McNeal at BuzzFeed. "With the tap of a button, you can scroll through Reels almost exactly like you scroll through your For You page, falling into the same kind of mindless, addictive scroll-hole that has made TikTok a favorite pandemic time-waster of millions."
  • Echoes of Stories. Instagram has denied accusations of cloning, much as it did when it launched Stories to compete with Snapchat, notes Julia Alexander at the Verge. "But Instagram Stories quickly surpassed Snapchat in daily users and has continued to be a massively successful product," she writes. "That history of success is one of the strongest reasons for Instagram’s team to think it can pull Reels off. TikTok did it first, but maybe Instagram can do it better."
  • A pitch for "content creators." Analysts say Instagram is trying to harness the wild creativity seen on TikTok. "Instagram’s plan here is not just to siphon users from apps like TikTok or keep its own users engaged right where they are," writes Arielle Pardes at Wired. "It also wants to build a new set of creators for its own platform." But with Facebook, which owns Instagram, "yet again cloning its competition, the social media landscape looks a little bit flatter," she writes.
(Read more TikTok stories.)

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