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Instagram’s Redesign Is Pushing Its TikTok Clone

A new redesign puts “Reels” front and center.

Posted on November 12, 2020, at 9:00 a.m. ET

Instagram has a redesign, with the notifications button moved to the top, and Reels at the bottom:

Instagram

The new Instagram layout moves the photo and notification buttons to the top, and Reels and Shopping to the bottom.

Instagram is rolling out a redesign today that puts Reels, its TikTok clone, literally front and center. The new layout puts the Reels icon — a little movie clapper — in the center bottom spot, where the + button to upload a photo used to be. Next to Reels is the shopping icon. Notifications and the upload button have been moved to the top corner.

Reels was launched in August as a competitor to TikTok, a month after Facebook quietly killed its previous TikTok clone, Lasso (did you even know Lasso existed?). This time was hardly the first that Facebook cloned a competitor. When Snapchat started taking off in 2013, Facebook launched “Poke,” an ephemeral messaging clone, and later copied the popular Stories format for Instagram. TikTok presents a real threat to Facebook, which owns Instagram: explosive growth among young users, with memes and stars that keep people engaged with the app for hours.

So if you can’t beat 'em or buy 'em, UI 'em.

So far, Reels hasn’t really caught on in a real way. When you look for Reels content, you see a lot of TikTok watermarks.

In the new redesign, Reels gets its own version of TikTok’s “For You” page. Previously, Reels posts could be found on the Explore page or in your feed if someone posted one. Now, the Reels button takes you to a feed that mixes of people you follow and content surfaced, uh, for you. Sound familiar?

The Instagram app is pretty conservative with big design or feature changes, compared to the main Facebook app. Major redesigns like this don’t happen often, and in general it’s pretty minimal on features (seemingly basic things like desktop DMs were only added this past winter). The fact that a redesign centers on the new Reels feature suggests that Facebook really wants it to seriously compete with TikTok, which the Trump administration is rapidly running out of days to ban.

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    Katie Notopoulos is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Notopoulos writes about tech and internet culture and is cohost of the Internet Explorer podcast.

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