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According to Instagram, its new Reels functionality is “a new way to create and discover short, entertaining videos on Instagram.” Sounds harmless enough, but we all know what Instagram Reels really is – a way to take out TikTok and ensure that Instagram remains the most popular way to share photo and video content on the Internet. Just as Instagram went all-out to take out Snapchat with Instagram Stories, the company is back at it again with a new feature designed to win over TikTok users.
Timing of the strategic move
Consider, for a moment, the whole timing of the announcement. Instagram officially announced Instagram Reels on August 5 – just about the same time that President Donald Trump was signing into action an Executive Order that would ban TikTok entirely within the United States. According to some estimates, there are 100 million users of TikTok within the U.S., and those users would have to go somewhere if they could no longer open up TikTok on their mobile device, right? So you can immediately see why this strategic move came at the perfect time. Afraid of losing TikTok? Jump right over to Instagram, we’ve got you covered.
Features in Instagram Reels
The heart of the new Reels functionality is the ability to share short, entertaining video clips of 15 seconds or less. To give innovative creators all that they need, Instagram is unlocking a lot of admittedly cool functionality. For example, Instagram is opening up an entire music library for users, so that they don’t have to worry about copyright or intellectual property issues from “borrowing” other people’s music (not that young teens probably worry too much about copyright violations). And Instagram is also unlocking AR effects as well, so that users can add on all kinds of filters and stickers and emojis. And there’s plenty more, too, like the ability to stitch together a lot of 15-second Reels into a bigger video, as well as the ability to create slow motion videos.
The end of TikTok?
In short, Instagram Reels is trying to become TikTok. The future of Instagram, no doubt, is young teens sharing dance routine videos and lip sync videos. And once that happens, it’s curtains for TikTok. Just consider what happened to Snapchat once Instagram added Instagram Stories functionality. Snapchat went from the most popular app of young millennials to just another social media app. And all of the buzz and hype surrounding Snapchat also dried up. Wall Street investors, too, started to demand to know when Snapchat would actually start to make money. And as soon as Snapchat began to be viewed as just another social media app trying to monetize its users through the use of advertising dollars, then it made sense that users defected to other platforms like Instagram.
The one wildcard here, though, is the prospect that another tech company will swoop in and rescue TikTok at the last moment with a huge, multi-billion-dollar acquisition. Microsoft, for example, has let it be known that it would consider a price tag of close to $30 billion for TikTok, and both Twitter and Apple have also been rumored to be thinking of a TikTok deal of some kind. TikTok, after all, has been downloaded more than 2 billion times worldwide, and as long as the new owner can distance itself from China, then it’s clear that TikTok could be worth much more than just $30 billion.
Will the Facebook monopoly ever come up with its own innovation?
For now, it’s clear that Facebook (which owns Instagram) is content to co-opt rival companies and, some might say, simply copy the innovation of others. When will Facebook come out with its own innovation instead of just stealing the innovation of others? Right now, Facebook is acting just like you’d expect a huge monopoly to act, despite all the assurances from CEO Mark Zuckerberg that the company is not a monopoly. Just days after questioning from legislators on Capitol Hill, Zuckerberg rolled out plans to add new features to Instagram to take down TikTok. So, if Instagram Reels helps Instagram to take down TikTok, we might finally get a public outcry to break up Facebook into different pieces in order to unlock real innovation and real consumer choice.