Picture Credit: Prototypr
Last month, the social media app, Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, came out with Reels, which is a content-sharing feature within Instagram that allows people to post short videos with music. This feature is nearly identical to the concept of TikTok, a social media app owned by a Chinese company called ByteDance.
This is not the first time Instagram has updated the app by borrowing from another popular social media app. Several years ago, Snapchat and Instagram were competing neck and neck for users. Snapchat had its “stories” and Instagram had “posts.” When Instagram updated its app with a “story” function similar to Snapchat, it quickly gained popularity and Snapchat fell behind.
Reels was an easy add-on feature by Facebook, but the question will be whether Reels will at some point surpass TikTok which currently has around 100 million users in the U.S. Another challenge that TikTok faces in the U.S. is that President Trump signed an executive order to ban TikTok, claiming TikTok illegally collects information on Americans and poses a national security threat. The TikTok ban will go into effect in just 3 days on September 20th.
TikTok was in the news this past summer when President Trump held one of his first campaign rallies in Tulsa, Oklahoma. When counted, people had bought over 19,000 tickets, but in the end, only a little over 6000 people showed up. It was reported that TikTok users pulled a prank by signing up for thousands of tickets with no intention to show up at the rally which resulted in much smaller than expected crowds. No one knows for sure how much this affected the rally size.
Just this week, the company Oracle won the bid to be TikTok’s U.S. business partner, which would allow TikTok to continue doing business in the U.S. The agreement still has to be approved by both the U.S. and Chinese governments.
If the deal does not go through and TikTok is banned, TikTok users in America could lose access to their app and all their followers. That may be good news for Instagram, since many people might just switch to Reels. As an Instagram user myself, I was an early adopter of Reels. I personally love it for browsing cute dog videos, watching foodies eat delicious-looking meals and learning TikTok-like dances. With all the uncertainty and controversy surrounding TikTok, Reels seems to have been launched at the perfect time.