Facebook’s (FB) Instagram unit has launched a new video tool – Instagram Reels – that will reportedly compete directly with TikTok, which is facing pressure to sell its U.S. assets to Microsoft (MSFT) or another company or be banned in this country.
The Washington Post reported that Instagram Reels allows its users to shoot and edit short-form videos, while watching others in a scrolling feed.
The main difference has to do with length – TikTok allows videos to go as long as 60 seconds; Instagram limits them to 15 seconds.
The introduction of Reels comes only one week after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg faced tough questions in Congress about his company’s allegedly anticompetitive practices, including allegations that it sometimes copies ideas from smaller rivals.
But Instagram’s product chief, Vishal Shah, insisted the timing of the release was coincidental, noting Reels has been in development for more than a year.
“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.”
Shah also said Reels will have a different feel from TikTok and will be linked to the Instagram system – which currently has some 1 billion users.
“We’ve not been historically good at helping new creators find an audience,” Shah told reporters Tuesday. “The pitch for new creators is that Reels is a good way to get discovered, even if you don’t have a follower base.”
TikTok has already criticized Facebook for its copycat Reels product, which was introduced in Brazil late last year. TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer wrote in a blog post: “To those who wish to launch competitive products, we say bring it on.”
But TikTok has other pressing concerns — the Trump administration is pressuring its parent company, ByteDance of China to sell off its U.S. assets or endure a ban over national security concerns.
President Donald Trump has alleged TikTok is feeding U.S. user data to the Chinese government through ByteDance – a claim TikTok has repeatedly denied.
Forrester analyst Jessica Liu said she thinks both Reels and TikTok can succeed.
“Social networks are not a zero sum game in which if one social network wins, the others automatically lose,” she told the Post.
Facebook will “continue to throw everything at the wall to see what sticks because they have the resources, R&D power, and (at the moment) time.”
But Joe Gagliese, chief executive of influencer marketing agency Viral Nation, told Reuters that Reels presents a “huge monstrous threat” to TikTok.
“The current turmoil [surrounding TikTok] couldn’t be playing more into [Instagram’s] court to launch this thing,” he added.
“Facebook has a long record — sometimes successful, sometimes not — of adopting features that have proven popular on rival platforms and rolling them out to its billions of users worldwide in an effort to avoid being eclipsed by younger upstarts,” Axios wrote. “A world where Reels must compete with a Microsoft-owned TikTok will present a very different challenge to Facebook than a world in which TikTok has been shut down in the U.S.”