Facebook Debuts Reels, a TikTok-Like App, in the US

August 6, 2020 3:23 am

Beijing (PingWest)—Facebook rolled out Reels, a competitor of short video platform TikTok, within its popular photo-sharing app Instagram in the US and more than 50 other countries on Wednesday.

The launch of Reels comes days after Microsoft said it was in talks to acquire TikTok’s US operations from Beijing-headquartered ByteDance, escalating the bruising fight with TikTok.

Reels was first tested in Brazil in 2018 and then later in France, Germany, and India, which was TikTok's largest market until the government banned the product last month after a border conflict with China. 

From then on, some Indian TikTok creators have asked their fans to follow them on other platforms such as Instagram and YouTube, according to a report from Business Insider.

Prior to this, Facebook shut down Lasso, a standalone app competing with TikTok, as its focus has shifted to Instagram’s Reels feature.

Last week, ahead of the antitrust hearings against Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and Google, TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer, who was hired in May from Disney, released a statement, slamming Facebook for unfair competition 'disguised as patriotism' and plagiarism. 

“We think fair competition makes all of us better. To those who wish to launch competitive products, we say bring it on. Facebook is even launching another copycat product, Reels (tied to Instagram) after their other copycat Lasso failed quickly,” he said in a blog post.

“But let’s focus our energies on fair and open competition in service of our consumers, rather than maligning attacks by our competitor – namely Facebook – disguised as patriotism and designed to put an end to our very presence in the US,” Mayer said.

In the speech prepared for the antitrust hearing by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the competition between Facebook and its foreign rivals was described as an ideological battle. Previously, the CEO also used TikTok as a demonstration of why American tech firms need to be free to counter the rise of China. 

Before the global launch of Reels, Instagram has been working behind the scenes to give influencers early access to the feature, thereby attracting more users. According to the Wall Street Journal, Facebook also offered TikTok creators financial incentives to join the new platform on Instagram.