Facebook launched a short-film product similar to the popular TikTok app in the United States and dozens of other countries Wednesday.
The new product, called Reels, is embedded in the Instagram app and permits users to create 15-second videos set to music from a predetermined music library.
The feature has been in production for at least two years, having undergone trials in Brazil in 2018. The addition comes two days after President Donald Trump gave Microsoft 45 days to acquire the U.S. division of the Chinese-owned TikTok over security concerns.
After the Brazil trials, Facebook tested the product in France, Germany and India, trying to grapple with some of TikTok’s biggest user concentrations. A stand-alone app, Lasso, made it to market but was not successful.
TikTok Chief Executive Officer Kevin Mayer called Reels a “copycat product” that would unfairly employ Instagram’s existing user base of more than 1 billion after “their other copycat Lasso failed quickly.”
Vishal Shah, Instagram’s vice president of product, acknowledged the similarities in a video conference call Tuesday with reporters and said, “Inspiration for products comes from everywhere,” including Facebook’s teams and “the ecosystem more broadly.”
Instagram’s current Stories feature allows users to share a photo or video that disappears after 24 hours, like the popular social media app Snapchat.
Reels differs from TikTok in that it employs Instagram’s preexisting augmented reality effects, which let users overlay images and filters onto their videos.
Reels’s algorithm reportedly is similar to TikTok’s, maintaining the platform’s draw for unknown creatives to go viral through being featured on the Explore page or sharing content with friends through reposts or personal messages. Content creators will be able to appear on the Explore page if their profiles are set to public.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Facebook is pursuing TikTok’s creators by offering them financial incentives to move over to Reels. In response to the report, a Facebook spokesperson said in certain cases, it may help cover production costs for influencers’ “creative ideas.”
Instagram said it does not have plans to monetize Reels content in the near future.
“We’re experimenting with different monetization options (for creators),” Shah said.