Instagram Reels is a real threat to TikTok

Instagram Reels is a real threat to TikTok

Good morning, Data Sheet readers. This is Fortune writer Aric Jenkins filling in for Adam.

There’s been a lot of coverage of TikTok this week, what with President Trump threatening to ban it in the U.S.—incensing Beijing and opening the door for Microsoft to buy the popular social media app for a reported $30 billion. Lest we forget, Facebook has also been working on a TikTok clone for Instagram that finally arrived on the platform yesterday. 

The new feature, Instagram Reels, is no small deal. Remember the last time the photo and video app copied a high-profile rival: Has Snap ever fully recovered from Instagram lifting the temporary 24-hour “Stories” feature that sent Instagram’s monthly active users to over 1 billion? Every time users scroll through a few Stories, they’re served an ad, which makes Instagram money, of course, not to mention a cut of all those e-commerce sales.

We don’t yet know the extent to which Instagram will leverage Reels for revenue-making ventures like ads or online shopping. But we do know that copying yet another rival’s trademark feature—15-second videos with visual effects that sync to music and audio files—threatens to keep more people on Instagram and off TikTok. With that could come the high-profile creators that make these apps buzz.

The timing couldn’t be better for Instagram, really. TikTok is under siege. Facebook has picked the perfect time to crush an upstart competitor.

But early reactions to Reels may be a little concerning to Facebook. “I have not seen one original piece of content on Instagram Reels yet. It is just full of TikTok memes, dances and videos,” said Wall Street Journal tech columnist Joanna Stern. “And it just doesn’t work. Without TikTok’s algorithm backing this, the feed is just random and feels stunted.”

Ultimately, though, it may not matter. “My main takeaway from Reels is the same one that, ultimately, led to me eventually stop using Snapchat once Instagram launched stories,” wrote BuzzFeed’s Stephanie McNeal. “It’s just so easy to have everything in one place.”

Yep. That’s the same reason I stopped using Snapchat, too.

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by David Z. Morris. Check out The Ledger, the fintech newsletter he edits weekly.

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