Instagram answer t0 TikTok is a feature called Reels, and it’s set to launch in the United States next month, a Facebook spokesperson confirmed to TheWrap on Thursday. Its debut comes as TikTok faces increased scrutiny from Washington D.C. over the popular app’s apparent ties to China’s government.
Reels shares a number of similarities with TikTok. Most notably, users are able to create and share 15-second clips that feature a wide range of music. Reels users are also to lift and edit audio from other videos. Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, will highlight viral clips in a “Featured Reels” section on the app’s Explore section.
The feature first launched in Brazil last November, allowing users to share their clips either to their Stories or directly send them to friends. Now, Reels is set to roll out in the U.S. and about 50 other countries.
“We’re excited to bring Reels to more countries, including the US, in early August,” a Facebook spokesperson told TheWrap. “The community in our test countries has shown so much creativity in short-form video, and we’ve heard from creators and people around the world that they’re eager to get started as well.”
Coincidentally or not, Reels launched in India last week — right as TikTok was banned in the country along with dozens of other Chinese apps over national security concerns. TikTok, which is owned by Bytedance, a Beijing-based tech giant, finds its data collection policies under the microscope both in the U.S. and abroad right now; last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. Government is “certainly looking at” banning the app.
Reels’ expansion comes only a few weeks after Facebook shuttered its own TikTok competitor, dubbed Lasso. After launching in the U.S. and several other countries in 2018, Lasso failed to gain traction with users. The app, which let users create 15-second clips just like TikTok, was most popular in Mexico, where it had a peak of 80,000 daily users in early June, according to data provided by App Annie to TechCrunch.
If TikTok were to be banned it would obviously be a major boost for Reels in the States. TikTok routinely sits at or near the top of Apple’s App Store and the Google Play app store. In Q1, TikTok was downloaded 67 million times on Apple devices, setting a quarterly record that was just surpassed by Zoom in Q2, TheWrap reported on Thursday.
NBC News was the first to report this story.