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Instagram Has Launched Reels, Its TikTok Rip-Off

Reels is just like TikTok — but built right into the Instagram app.

Posted on August 5, 2020, at 9:01 a.m. ET

Instagram / Via Instagram

Facebook’s TikTok competitor Reels was made available in the United States on Wednesday.

Just like TikTok, Reels lets people record 15-second clips, sync them with music or audio effects, and share them with the world or privately with friends. But there is a crucial difference: Reels isn’t a separate app — it’s built right into Instagram.

“Reels gives people new ways to express themselves, discover more of what they love on Instagram, and help anyone with the ambition of becoming a creator take center stage,” said an Instagram blog post announcing the launch.

What Instagram's announcement doesn’t say is just how similar Reels is to TikTok. Last month, the Wall Street Journal reported that Instagram offered popular TikTok creators “hundreds of thousands of dollars” to start using Reels.

Instagram Reels or TikTok? Can you spot the difference?

Twitter: @JoannaStern / Via Twitter: @JoannaStern

TikTok, which is owned by Chinese technology giant ByteDance, is under heavy scrutiny in both the US and around the world for its ties to the Chinese government. Last year, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States began a national security review of ByteDance. In July, secretary of state Mike Pompeo said in an interview on Fox News that Americans should only download TikTok if “you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party."


Last week, President Donald Trump announced that he planned to ban TikTok, which is used by more than 100 million Americans — unless it was sold to a US company by Sept. 15. ByteDance is now in discussions with the tech giant Microsoft about a possible sale.

Reels is already live in several European countries as well as India, TikTok’s largest market outside China. Instagram launched it in India last month, days after India banned TikTok in the wake of border clashes between the two countries.

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A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.