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The Facebook-TikTok Face-Off



Instagram Reels Aims to Compete With TikTok

Instagram, owned by Facebook (FB) is rolling out a new service to compete with ByteDance Ltd.’s TikTok. The feature is called Reels—and similar to TikTok, it gives users a platform to record and share short videos with audio or music.

TikTok has 800 million active users across the globe, and the number of TikTok users in the US has grown 5.5 times in less than 18 months. TikTok has worked to draw users from Facebook and Instagram through massive ad campaigns on the respective platforms. Now, Facebook is fighting back. The company is paying TikTok users with millions of followers to create exclusive content for Reels.

How Does Reels Work?

Through Reels, users can share video clips on their Instagram Stories. They can also send videos to individuals, or add a new Reels tab on their Instagram profiles. Instagram has over 1 billion active users worldwide. It has been successful before in launching new features to compete with other platforms, like Instagram Stories, which mimicked some features of Snapchat (SNAP).

Reels will launch in the US in early August. It will also arrive in the UK, Japan, Mexico, and about 50 other countries next month. The platform has already made its debut in India, Germany, and France.

Zooming Out

Facebook’s move into TikTok’s territory comes at a tense moment in the relationship between the US (home of Facebook) and China (home of TikTok). Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has indicated that the Trump administration has concerns about TikTok’s ties to China, and might place limits on the platform in the US.

Several weeks ago, TikTok announced it would pull out of Hong Kong due to conflicts about a new national-security law in the city. Just last week, India banned TikTok because of escalating tensions with China due to a border dispute in the Himalayas. India accounted for about one-third of TikTok’s users before the ban. Instagram Reels took the opportunity to launch in India to fill the gap.

Some TikTok users and talent managers in the US are wary of these rising tensions. Many are eager to build their presence on Reels as a way to have insurance in case TikTok is banned or limited in the US.


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