What is Reels and is it better than TikTok?

Alice Hearing. Last updated: Aug 06, 2020
Instagram Reels vs TikTok logo
Instagram / TikTok

With the terrifying news that TikTok could be banned in the United States, several competitors have come out of the woodwork to try to capitalize on TikTok’s immense success – including Instagram’s new ‘Reels’.

Reels launched yesterday on August 5, and it’s Instagram’s answer to TikTok, enabling users who already have an account to make and discover short-form videos.

The product has just been launched across 50 countries including key markets such as the US, UK, Brazil, France, and Australia.

What’s Different?

To begin with, short-form videos are limited to 15 seconds, whereas TikTok allows 60 seconds. At launch, Reels users won’t be able to duet with each other either.

But like TikTok, Reels offers different editing tools such as AR effects, countdown timers, and an align tool to line up different takes.

Functionally, Reels are very similar to TikTok.

Instagram will offer music, but users won’t be able to directly upload songs into the system. Original sounds can be used in recordings, but they cannot be uploaded directly as separate tracks.

However, one advantage over TikTok is that users don’t have to worry so much about copyrighted tracks being deleted from their videos, thanks to Instagram’s deals with major record labels.

How to use it

The Reels feature is built into the Instagram camera users already know how to use, so the whole thing stays within the one app. At the bottom of the screen, you can select Reels next to the Story and Live options. Editing tools will then appear on the left-hand side.

Reels on instagram profile
Reels are shared to your Instagram profile.

Is there a version of the For You page? To an extent. Reels can be discovered through a new part of the explore space within Instagram where videos are presented in a personalized vertical feed, much like TikTok. Videos can also be featured which means that they’re chosen and curated by Instagram itself.

Reels can be private or public, so they can be uploaded to your normal feed or your stories, or you can opt for them to be discoverable in the explore tab.

If TikTok sticks around, however, will Instagram Reels still live on to become a success? Instagram successfully took the stories feature from Snapchat and made it even more popular in their own app, and evidently they think it could happen again.

The most important test will be if Instagram can perfect the algorithm that has made TikTok so spectacular.