Instagram Reels is Facebook’s latest attempt to challenge TikTok and may find more success than its previous experimental project Lasso which had a shaky start and failed to attract enough of an audience. Facebook found an opportune time to launch Instagram’s Reels feature just as President Donald Trump recently banned TikTok in the United States.
President Trump signed executive order to ban TikTok
Trump called for banning the app citing national security concerns in his executive order,”The spread in the United States of mobile applications developed and owned by companies in the People’s Republic of China (China) continues to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States. At this time, action must be taken to address the threat posed by one mobile application in particular, TikTok.”
The Indian administration under prime minster Narendra Modi also banned TikTok and 58 other Chinese apps also citing national security concerns. The move was not surprising considering the growing tensions between the two countries, however, India was home to TikTok’s biggest market with over 119 million active users in India and 277.6 million total app downloads. Other countries including Japan and Pakistan have either banned or considered banning the app.
Instagram Reels therefore comes at a time when there is a TikTok shaped vacuum to be filled and may attract a large audience on the virtue of that alone, not to mention the popularity of Instagram itself. The big question then is whether the Reels feature will hold up and whether it is a competent replacement.
Initial reactions to the feature seem to be tepid, according to a snap survey conducted by the Influencer Marketing Agency, Fanbytes, 75% of creators said they would not move to Instagram Reels. A complaint among the more loyal users is that Reels is essentially an ersatz TikTok. However, the company is known to copy its competitors and has done so successfully in the past by introducing the Stories feature to Instagram and Facebook which was originally a Snapchat functionality.
Although Facebook has the resources and the market through Instagram to make Reels a success, there are potentially many problems that plague the feature. Many users find it confusing given that Instagram already has the feature to post videos and there is no clear benefit to making a Reel instead. Instagram risks overloading its interface by incorporating Reels into its Search feature and the option to make Reels in its camera, whereas, TikTok with its For You tab offers the videos at the get go. Instagram seems to have tacked on Reels as a mere afterthought.
As for the features, TikTok was specifically designed to make it easy to churn out and share videos. TikTok offered the ability to download the videos and share them cross platform with the watermark already in place. It gives users the opportunity to interact with other creators through making duets and creating reaction videos. TikTok’s interface makes it really easy to edit videos, add effects, etc, and makes for a creative environment, which is part of its addictive nature. For instance, the Artificial Intelligence used to make recommendations for adding audio and its Audio Sync and Auto Sync options made it astoundingly easy to make quality videos with minimal editing.
Facebook’s TikTok clone lasso is shutting down ahead of the Instagram Reels launch, so basically Fb lost 2 years by half-assing. Brb, gotta go save my zero Lassos pic.twitter.com/VgKImjgWM4
— Josh Constine -SignalFire (@JoshConstine) July 2, 2020
It needs to be said, though, that Instagram Reels is right now in its nascent stages and might eventually develop into a worthy adversary for TikTok. The feature, though launched at an opportune time, has a ways to go, and Facebook seems to be well aware of that. Though Reels is yet to come to Pakistan, it was introduced in over 50 countries just as Lasso was shut down.
A Facebook spokesperson told TechCrunch, “We place multiple bets across our family of apps to test and learn how people want to express themselves. One of these tests was Lasso, our stand-alone short-form video app, which we have decided to shut down. We thank everyone who shared their creativity and feedback with us, which we’ll look to incorporate in our other video experiences.”