Facebook is copycatting features from its most worrisome competitor — again. Facebook-owned Instagram is now rolling out a version of virtual karaoke much like TikTok. Called Reels, the feature is launching today in Brazil, where Instagram will test the new video-editing tool among existing Stories users.
Reels is an in-app editing tool for creating 15-second videos synced to music or another type of audio. If that sounds a bit like TikTok, the lip-syncing video platform, that’s because even Instagram’s Robby Stein, director of product management, gives credit to the app owned by the Chinese company ByteDance. Reels, like TikTok, encourages a less serious form of sharing, encouraging the same openness of karaoke night in a digital format by welcoming lip-syncing and off-the-wall videos.
Reels is a camera mode that’s located in the wheel of different shooting modes such as Boomerang and Create. Reels allows users to choose an audio clip to use with the video — which should be an extensive list due to the parent company’s agreements with record companies. Other tools include adjusting the speed and using a timer.
But unlike TikTok, Reels will be integrated into Instagram Stories — another clone from a competing social network — to capitalize on the numbers of users already watching photos and videos there. Reels isn’t parent-company Facebook’s first shot at grabbing some of TikTok’s growth — Lasso is a similar music app. As a separate app, however, Lasso doesn’t have the instant reach enables by integrating the same feature into the existing Stories.
There’s no word yet if or when Reels will make its way to other countries, or if Reels will follow the path of Stories and start in Instagram but later expand to Facebook too.
Reels isn’t the first example of the company capitalizing on the popularity of a feature originally developed by another app, most notably, the Snapchat-original Stories. Facebook is also under investigation in the U.S. for potentially violating trade laws designed for fair competition when it acquired Instagram and WhatsApp. Facebook, which currently has more than 2 billion users, is known for a pattern of continuing its dominance by adding trending features and buying out others.
While Facebook may be under investigation for trade law violations, lawmakers in the U.S. are also digging into ByteDance for its acquisition of musical.ly, which eventually became TikTok. Politicians have also expressed concern that the China-owned app may be required to comply with Chinese law and share user data with the government. They also have concerns that China’s strict censorship laws are also affecting users in other nations.