What is Instagram Reels? Facebook launches video feature to rival TikTok

'Well ... this looks familiar,' quipped TikTok – it's not wrong

You can create a 15-second video and set it to music or audio clips as part of the new feature. Instagram
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Instagram has launched a new video feature that it hopes will reel viewers away from TikTok.

The Facebook-owned app launched the feature last week to users of the social media platform in 50 countries, including the US, UK, Japan and Australia. And it looks a lot like TikTok.

What is Instagram Reels?

The addition to the photo-sharing app allows users to create, edit and upload 15-second snippets of video. The short-form video format means users can record clips with audio and music soundtracks, much like the Gen Z-favourite, TikTok.

The similarities between the features even caused TikTok to raise a proverbial eyebrow at its competitor on Twitter.

"Hellooooo, Reels, introducing a new way to create and discover short, entertaining videos," Instagram posted on Wednesday, August 5.

"Well ... this looks familiar," replied TikTok, as it retweeted the post.

Why has Instagram launched Reels now?

The feature has been in development for some time, with Facebook first testing Reels with users in Brazil in November.

This is not the first TikTok-esque feature the social media giant has launched as Facebook video app Lasso hit phones in 2018.

But Lasso then quietly shut down operations last month, with Facebook seeming to focus its attention on Instagram's Reels.

Tech experts have surmised that the announcement of the latest feature is particularly timely, tying into the uncertain future of TikTok, with US President Donald Trump threatening to ban the Chinese video-streaming app after officials expressed security concerns about the amount of user data it collected.

"Even if TikTok were to be banned in the US (which I think is unlikely to happen), users would find a way to keep using it," analyst Debra Aho Williamson told The Guardian. "They are incredibly loyal and protective of TikTok."

How do you use Instagram Reels?

If Instagram Reels is available in your country, it's easy to find (if it's not available to you yet, it likely will be soon).

Reels appears at the bottom of the navigation options when you open your camera in the app (where you can select options such as Live, Boomerang and Hands-Free), as well as under the Explore tab.

When you click on Reels, a menu will load on the left-hand side of your screen, which helps you edit your video.

You can search for a song from the Instagram music library (which isn't available in the UAE yet), or create your own audio when recording.

You can also add filters and effects, speed up or slow down part of the video or audio, and set timers and countdowns if you're recording your video without the help of a friend.

When you've created your video, you'll be able to save a draft, choose a cover image and add a caption before publishing it to your account. You can also choose to add it to your main feed.

All published Reels will be available on a separate tab, much like IGTV. However, if the feature is not available in your region, you can't view other users' Reels, either.

How is it different to TikTok?

At the moment, only 15-second Reels can be created, whereas TikTok videos can be extended up to 60 seconds by piecing together four 15-second clips.

Also, anyone can view a TikTok video, irrespective of whether they have an account. However, you have to be an Instagram user to view Reels.

Is it available in the UAE?

Sadly, not yet. The National has contacted Instagram to see when the feature is slated to come to the region.