Facebook launched its own version of its social media rival TikTok in more than 50 countries on Wednesday, incorporating a new short-form video service called Reels as a feature within its popular Instagram app.
The debut comes days after Microsoft said it was in talks to acquire TikTok’s US operations from China’s ByteDance. ByteDance has agreed to ditch parts of TikTok, the sources said, under pressure from the White House, which has threatened to ban it and other Chinese-owned apps on data security grounds.
The launch of Reels intensifies a tough fight between Facebook and TikTok, with each posing as a threat to the other. Both have been eager to attract American teens, many of whom have flocked to TikTok in the past two years.
The reels were first tested in Brazil in 2018 and then in France, Germany and India, which was TikTok’s largest market until the Indian government banned it last month after a border clash with China. Facebook also tested a standalone app called Lasso, which didn’t gain much traction.
Similar to TikTok, Reels users can record short vertical videos for mobile devices and then add special effects and soundtracks drawn from a music library.
Those similarities led TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer to call Reels a “copycat product” that could take advantage of Instagram’s huge existing user base after “its other copycat Lasso quickly failed.”
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