Facebook’s attempt to compete with TikTok — a new short-form video format on Instagram — is rolling out Wednesday to users in the United States.
Reels allows users to record and edit short-form videos with audio and music soundtracks — akin to what users already do on TikTok. Facebook first started testing Reels with users in Brazil in November, before rolling out in the last few months to France, Germany, and India.
The debut of Instagram’s Reels in the US comes as fears spike over TikTok’s future in US, as the Trump administration threatens to ban TikTok nationwide. Although the path to a ban is not clear, TikTok’s US users are already panicking and looking for alternatives to the platform in preparation. ByteDance has been looking to sell TikTok’s US operations to an American company in an attempt to salvage its presence, and Microsoft has emerged as a potential buyer.
Instagram has been tight-lipped thus far about how Reels’ reception in other countries — and Business Insider has yet to get access to the feature — so there’s not a lot we know about the new format ahead of its US launch.
Here’s everything we know so far about how Instagram Reels will work.
How do you create a Reels video on Instagram?
Instagram has said that the Reels video format will live inside of Stories, which users can create in the top-left corner of the Home feed. It appears that Instagram is updating the Rolodex of options at the bottom of the screen — for creating Live videos, text posts, or Boomerangs — to add a tab for Reels. The creation process for Reels appears similar to that on TikTok, but it remains to be seen how seamless of an experience it is compared with TikTok’s video-creating ease.
How will I know which posts on Instagram are Reels?
When scrolling through your home feed or Explore page, you’ll be able to tell which posts are Reels clips by a clapboard icon in the bottom-left corner.
What will Reels videos look like on Instagram?
On the surface, it seems viewing Reels will be a similar experience as viewing TikTok videos: You can like or comment on videos, and click through to see what audio track was used in a specific video. It’s not clear if you’re able to scroll vertically through videos — akin to TikTok’s addictive “For You” feed” — or if you have to navigate back to the Explore page to find more Reels.
Where can I find all of an individual user’s Reels?
A new tab will be added to users’ profiles to showcase all their Reels in one place. The tab will live alongside the traditional grid of recent posts, as well as tabs for viewing IGTV videos or videos a user was tagged in.
When will Reels be available in my country?
Facebook first started testing Reels with users in Brazil in November, before rolling out in June to France and Germany. Reels then rolled out in India in July, Business Insider India reported.
Wednesday’s rollout includes not only the United States, but also to users in the United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, and more than 50 countries.
Why is Instagram rolling out Reels to the US now?
The debut of Instagram’s Reels in the US comes as fears spike over TikTok’s future in US. The Trump administration are threatening to ban TikTok nationwide, after months of scrutinizing the platform’s ties to China, where its parent company ByteDance is based. Others have called for TikTok’s ban in the US due to concerns over how much access and influence the Chinese government is afforded over user data and content moderation
It’s unclear how long Facebook has been readying Reels for an August launch, but the timing is particularly convenient when looking at TikTok’s recent turmoil. Instagram’s head of product, Vishal Shah, told reporters in a recent call that the timing of Reels’ release is “coincidental,” and that the company has been working on the new feature for a long time.
Although the path to a ban is not clear, ByteDance has been looking to sell TikTok’s US operations to an American company in an attempt to salvage its presence. Microsoft has emerged as a potential buyer.
What’s the difference between Instagram Reels and TikTok?
It appears that Reels videos are limited to 15 seconds, while TikTok extended the maximum length of its videos to 60 seconds earlier this year.
Facebook benefits in its long-standing partnerships with music labels and agencies, which may have to be adjusted and re-negotiated to allow Instagram users access to music and audio for Reels videos. TikTok has started beefing up its agreements with music labels, so Facebook may want to follow suit to ensure there are no issues for Reels.
Shah, Instagram’s head of product, says that Reels will differ from TikTok in giving users a more built-out augmented reality platform, as well as offering them a way to make short-form videos inside Instagram, a place they already love and know how to use.
“[TikTok] certainly didn’t invent short form video, but they innovated it,” Shah told reporters. “We’ve been clear that formats in the past were inspired by other companies … I believe that consumers having choice results in better products.”
Why is Instagram Reels such a big deal?
In just a few years of its existence, TikTok has become a staple of internet culture and social interaction for Generation Z. The app has more than 2.3 billion all-time downloads, thanks to its flurry of short-form videos where users participate in viral challenges, lip sync and dance to music, show off comedic skits, and share their hot takes on society at large.
Particularly in the US, where TikTok debuted in 2018, it’s become a social media powerhouse — the app now has more than 100 million American users. It regularly outperforms US-based apps that have attracted younger audiences — including Instagram.
But Facebook’s first attempt at competing with TikTok was a failure. The company launched an app called Lasso in November 2018, but it failed to gain traction: Lasso had fewer than 600,000 downloads, according to Sensor Tower. Lasso shut down on July 10, making way for Facebook to throw all its short-video efforts behind Instagram Reels.
Facebook is notorious for copying other platform’s popular formats and features and bringing them to its own apps — with rousing success. Most notably, Facebook cloned Snap’s Stories feature and brought it to Instagram, where it was wildly more popular than it ever was on Snapchat.