Show an ad over header. AMP

Facebook launches its TikTok rival, Instagram Reels

Facebook-owned Instagram on Wednesday launched its answer to the popular karaoke app TikTok, whose future remains in limbo.

The big picture: Facebook has a long record — sometimes successful, sometimes not — of adopting features that have proven popular on rival platforms and rolling them out to its billions of users worldwide in an effort to avoid being eclipsed by younger upstarts.

Driving the news: Reels enters the fray as TikTok, threatened with a ban by President Trump because of its Chinese ownership, has opened negotiations to be acquired by Microsoft.

  • A world where Reels must compete with a Microsoft-owned TikTok will present a very different challenge to Facebook than a world in which TikTok has been shut down in the U.S.

Be smart: Reels is the first product Instagram has created that focuses more on creators than everyday users. Reels' video distribution algorithm will resemble TikTok's: users will see the most popular videos at the moment, rather than a selection tailored to their individual profile.

Details: The new product will be embedded within Instagram, so that the app's 1 billion+ user base can tap into it and help it achieve wide adoption.

  • The product will debut in over 50 countries on Wednesday, including the U.S., India, Brazil, France, Germany, the U.K., Japan, Australia and others.
  • It will allow users to create 15-second videos using editing tools that are embedded in Instagram's camera, like a countdown clock, a timer and a new align tool, which gives users an easy way to string together different video cuts.
  • It will include music from a big library of titles that Instagram has recently licensed from music labels.
  • Reels differs from TikTok thanks to Instagram's augmented reality effects, which let users overlay images and filters onto their videos.

Between the lines: Reels gives Instagram an opportunity to tap into a new creative community, one that's more focused on talent than the beauty-and-aesthetics topics that dominate Instagram today.

  • "We've not been historically good at helping new creators find an audience," said Vishal Shah, Instagram's VP of product, on a call with reporters Tuesday.
  • "The pitch for new creators is that Reels is a good way to get discovered, even if you don't have a follower base."

What creators like about TikTok is that they can amass huge audiences quickly if their video gains traction.

  • Instagram says creators will be able to share Reels videos privately with their friends and followers via direct messages or on their Stories, but they also now have the opportunity to be discovered by Instagram's massive audience within its Explore tab if they wish to do so and if their accounts are set to public.
  • Reels videos will live in a dedicated space within the Explore tab called the Stage.
  • Because Instagram doesn't have a "share" button, it's been hard for content on Instagram to go viral to lots of people fast.

Be smart: Instagram had previously launched a Reels-like product called Lasso, that it later shut down. Executives told reporters on a call Wednesday that it's hard to get a new app to reach mass adoption — hence the reason for making Reels a feature within Instagram.

Context: Executives acknowledged that the launch of Reels is timely, given TikTok's future in the U.S. is on the brink, but they say they did not expedite the launch to take advantage of the moment.

  • "This has always been part of our plan," said Shah. "We've been working on this for over a year."
  • The timing, he says, "happens to be coincidental" but it's also a reflection of an acceleration of what users increasingly say they want to do on Instagram.
  • "There is a lot of appetite for short-form, edited video on instagram," said Shah.
  • "We started to experiment over a year ago in Brazil with Reels. In last month, 45% of videos uploaded to the (Instagram) feed were 15 seconds or less," he said.

Yes, but: Instagram is coming somewhat late to the game. Already, several apps like Byte, Dubsmash and Triller are trying to win over TikTok users with similar products. And one of Instagram's biggest rivals, Snapchat, is reportedly testing TikTok-style design for exploring content.

What's next: For now, Instagram is focusing on rolling Reels out and getting users to adopt it. Executives say it's not focused on how it will make money with Reels quite yet.

  • "We're experimenting with different monetization options (for creators)," said Shah, referencing different Instagram products like Instagram shopping, and IGTV. "These are early and we are still testing them."

U.S. surpasses 25 million COVID cases

The U.S has confirmed more than 25 million coronavirus cases, per Johns Hopkins data updated on Sunday.

The big picture: President Biden has said he expects the country's death toll to exceed 500,000 people by next month, as the rate of deaths due to the virus continues to escalate.

Keep reading... Show less

GOP party leaders face internal revolt for failing to stand up for Trump

The GOP is getting torn apartby a spreading revolt against party leaders for failing to stand up for former President Trump and punish his critics.

Why it matters: Republican leaders suffered a nightmarish two months in Washington. Outside the nation’s capital, it's even worse.

Keep reading... Show less

The limits of Biden's plan to cancel student debt

Data: New York Fed Consumer Credit Panel/Equifax; Chart: Axios Visuals

There’s a growing consensus among Americans who want President Biden to cancel student debt — but addressing the ballooning debt burden is much more complicated than it seems.

Why it matters: Student debt is stopping millions of Americans from buying homes, buying cars and starting families. And the crisis is rapidly getting worse.

Keep reading... Show less

Why made-for-TV moments like Amanda Gorman matter during the pandemic

In a world where most Americans are isolated and forced to laugh, cry and mourn without friends or family by their side, viral moments can offer critical opportunities to unite the country or divide it.

Driving the news: President Biden's inauguration was produced to create several made-for-social viral moments, a tactic similar to what the Democratic National Committee and the Biden campaign pulled off during the Democratic National Convention.

Keep reading... Show less

Russian police arrest over 3,000 protesters demanding Navalny's release

Russian police on Saturday arrested more than 3,300 people as protesters nationwide demanded that opposition leader Alexey Navalny be released from jail.

Details: Demonstrations that began in the eastern regions of Russia spread west to more than 60 cities. At least 3,324 of people were detained and tens of thousands of others protested into the night despite the presence of law enforcement and extremely low temperatures, per the OVD-Info group, which monitors political arrests.

Keep reading... Show less

Arizona Republicans censure Cindy McCain, Gov. Doug Ducey and Jeff Flake

Arizona Republican Party members voted on Saturday to censure prominent GOP figures Cindy McCain, Gov. Doug Ducey and former Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who've all faced clashes with former President Trump, per AZCentral.

Why it matters: Although the resolution is symbolic, this move plus the re-election of Trump loyalist Kelli Ward as state GOP chair shows the strong hold the former president has on the party in Arizona, despite President Biden winning the state in the 2020 election.

Keep reading... Show less

DOJ: Capitol rioter threatened to "assassinate" Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

A Texas man who has be charged with storming the U.S. Capitol in the deadly Jan. 6 siege posted death threats against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), the Department of Justice said.

The big picture: Garret Miller faces five charges in connection to the riot by supporters of former President Trump, including violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds and making threats. According to court documents, Miller posted violent threats online the day of the siege, including tweeting “Assassinate AOC.”

Keep reading... Show less

Schumer calls for IG probe into alleged plan by Trump, DOJ lawyer to oust acting AG

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Saturday called for the Justice Department inspector general to investigate an alleged plan by former President Trump and a DOJ lawyer to remove the acting attorney general and replace him with someone more willing to investigate unfounded claims of election fraud.

Driving the news: The New York Times first reported Friday that the lawyer, Jeffrey Clark, allegedly devised "ways to cast doubt on the election results and to bolster Mr. Trump’s continuing legal battles and the pressure on Georgia politicians. Because Mr. [Jeffrey] Rosen had refused the president’s entreaties to carry out those plans, Mr. Trump was about to decide whether to fire Mr. Rosen and replace him with Mr. Clark."

Keep reading... Show less



Get Goodhumans in your inbox

Most Read

More Stories