What is Reels? Instagram launches a feature to rival TikTok

Natalie Salmon
·3-min read
Photo credit: Christian Vierig - Getty Images
Photo credit: Christian Vierig - Getty Images

From Harper's BAZAAR

Instagram has launched its own rival service to TikTok, which it is calling 'Reels'.

From now, the new Reels feature will start being rolled out across all territories. Previously the functionality was being tested solely in Brazil. Many of Instagram's newer features - for example, when Instagram removed visible likes - are tested out in this market first.

Reels will be accessed by users via a new icon at the bottom of the screen in Instagram, which will then allow them to post Reels content directly to their main feed. The popularity of TikTok within Instagram's target audience can not be overstated - particularly in recent months - and many TikTok videos are downloaded and then reposted onto Instagram accounts. The introduction of Reels from Instagram could therefore come as a huge blow to the Chinese social media platform, which is already under threat of being banned by President Trump in the US.

When Instagram launched Stories, a concept "borrowed" from Snapchat, it accelerated the decline of the platform. After Instagram Stories were introduced at the end of 2017, Snapchat experienced its first ever decline in growth and lost three million users, according to Vox.

Photo credit: Edward Berthelot - Getty Images
Photo credit: Edward Berthelot - Getty Images

But what exactly is Reels? Instagram has dubbed it a "video remix feature" which allows someone to take a 15-second video and set it to music, and then post that clip to their story or main feed. The videos can also be sent as private messages - a feature which TikTok doesn't boast yet. This offering is bound to attract the younger audience who have flocked to TikTok during the pandemic.

Photo credit: SOPA Images - Getty Images
Photo credit: SOPA Images - Getty Images

According to lifestyle tech website TheModems, it's thought that Reels was originally meant to be called "Clips" and was spotted by Jane Manchun Wong, a online security researcher who is an expert at spotting unreleased features on apps and social media platforms.

"By reverse engineering, I noticed that Instagram has been working on a new Story Camera mode called 'Clips' since early July," Wong explained in a blog post. "Just like TikTok, 'Clips' allows users to record segments of videos into a single video story. Just like TikTok, users can overlay music on clips. Just like TikTok, users can adjust the speed and timer of each video clips."

It appears that Instagram will also be using its Explore page to feature Reels videos as a way to promote the new tool within the platform.

So far, TikTok has more than 500 million active users and the company is worth more than £58 billion. However in June of 2018, Instagram had reached one billion monthly active users, up from 800 million in September 2017, according to reports from TechCrunch.

The app is one of the most popular social networks in the world, which means that the introduction of Reels could dominate TikTok if its implementation is successful.

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