The internet is abuzz over Reels, Instagram’s new feature for short video clips. Here’s everything you need to know about Facebook’s new tentacle:
What is it?
Reels lets users record and edit 15-second video clips. You can add music, stickers, or filters, and speed up or slow down snippets of a clip. Clips can be strung together into a longer series or left solo, and—most crucially—everything can be shared with followers via your Instagram Feed. (If it’s not on the ‘gram, does it even exist?)
Reels also occupies a new, dedicated spot in Instagram’s Explore section where you can scroll through public community posts from users around the world, “[showcasing] the best of trending culture.”
You can like, comment, or share any post.
Wait, haven’t we seen this before?
Um, yes! Reels is nearly an exact replica of TikTok, the hugely popular video-share platform owned by Chinese company ByteDance.
So when is it coming out?
Reels is launching in more than 50 countries today, including in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, India, Japan, Australia, and Brazil.
How’s the rollout looking so far?
It’s looking suspicious. Observers have pointed out the convenient timing of Reels’s launch—which is occurring during a torrent of negative press for its predecessor-and-rival TikTok. Last month, India banned TikTok over concerns that the company could share user data with the Chinese government, and a number of countries are considering doing the same—including the U.S., Japan, and Australia, all countries where Reels debuts today. In the U.S., President Trump has been lobbying for a TikTok ban for weeks now.
Reels’s launch also comes on the heels of a Capitol Hill hearing that interrogated four U.S. tech CEOs—including Mark Zuckerberg of Instagram’s parent, Facebook—on their companies’ anticompetitive practices. Members of Congress noted that Facebook has, in the past, unfairly leveraged its vast user base to transition consumers into new and competitive ventures—as was the case with Instagram’s Stories, which cloned functions from Snapchat, and exceeded its monthly users in less than a year.
Reels, which—like Stories—is housed within the already massive Instagram app, could prove another example of that.
What’s TikTok saying about this?
TikTok’s parent, ByteDance, released a statement Sunday stating that it has faced “all kinds of complex and unimaginable difficulties,” including the “plagiarism and smear of competitor Facebook.”
And in a statement last Wednesday, TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer fired shots at both Reels and Lasso—Facebook’s failed standalone video-share app of 2018—which he called “copycat” products.
Mayer also took aim at Facebook itself, accusing the social media platform of trying to snuff out its rivals—specifically, TikTok—with underhanded techniques “disguised as patriotism.” He was, presumably, referring to Facebook’s role in circulating claims from the Trump campaign that TikTok was “spying” on its American users.
I’m too old for this. Should I even bother with Reels or TikTok?
You’re never too old to be a social media influencer!