Today, Facebook-owned Instagram released its new service, Reels, in the United States and dozens of other countries. Designed to be a TikTok killer, the app lets users make and watch short-form videos — just like TikTok.
In light of President Trump’s insistence toward a TikTok ban in the US (and despite Microsoft’s attempt to purchase the US arm of TikTok to avoid that), Instagram’s product chief, Vishal Shah, says the timing of the launch is coincidental. He also denied directly copying TikTok, stating “[it] did not invent the short-form video market.”
“Inspiration for products comes from everywhere,” he said. “We’ve been very clear in products in the past that were inspired by other companies, too.”
As Washington Post points out, “Instagram and its parent, Facebook, have a long history of successfully remaking products introduced by others, tweaking them and releasing them to great popularity. Facebook’s On This Day feature is reminiscent of one first launched by TimeHop. The company’s Messenger Rooms video chat feels like a cross of Zoom and HouseParty. Most notably, Instagram Stories debuted in 2016 as a virtual mirror of rival Snapchat’s stories feature.”
Reels’ direct connection to Instagram and the larger Facebook ecosystem could give it a major leg up on TikTok since users don’t have to grow an entirely new social media channel from scratch. Though, diversification is still always key.