With Reels, Instagram app users can record, edit, share and discover videos of up to 15 seconds, backed with audio and music including millions of songs licensed from music companies. Instagram Reels is launching today (Aug. 5) in over 50 countries, including the U.S., India, France, Germany, Japan, Australia and the U.K. The wide debut comes after Facebook-owned Instagram has been testing Reels in Brazil for the past nine months.
“People have always come to Instagram to express themselves and be entertained,” said Tessa Lyons, director of product management at Instagram. Reels will be “a big part of the future of entertainment on Instagram.”
Instagram Reels is another example of Facebook copying a feature that’s become popular in a rival app. TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer took aim at the social giant last week for the mimicry, writing in a blog post: “At TikTok we welcome competition… 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.”
And the issue of Facebook poaching ideas was raised during last week’s congressional antitrust hearing looking at Big Tech’s anticompetitive practices. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg couldn’t deny that the company has “certainly adapted features that others have led in,” he testified.
Now, with TikTok’s future in the U.S. uncertain — as Microsoft looks to sew up a deal to buy the app from China’s ByteDance by Sept. 15, as dictated by the Trump administration — here comes Instagram Reels.
According to Lyons, Instagram Reels will complement the app’s other video features, which comprise Stories (copied from Snapchat), Live and IGTV for longer-form content.
Instagram is capping Reels at 15 seconds, the same length as TikTok’s default video setting although TikTok allows videos up to 60 seconds. (In 2013, Instagram originally launched with a 15-second cap on videos before extending that to one minute.) “There can be pressure for to be long-form” if there isn’t any limitation, Lyons said. By capping Reels at 15 seconds, that “packs a lot of expression into a small amt of time.”
There are “tens of millions” of songs available in Instagram Reels, said Lyons. Those fall under the same licensing deals Facebook has inked with companies including Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group and Sony Music for embedded lip-syncing videos into News Feed and Facebook Stories.
Instagram users can choose to share their Reels videos with only friends and followers — or, by default, those will be available publicly in a new area on the app’s Explore section.
Reels featured in Explore will showcase “the best of trending culture on Instagram” in a personalized vertical feed (like TikTok), according to the service. Instagram also will curate Reels, which will include a “Featured” label, culled from public posts “to help you discover original content we hope will entertain and inspire you.”
Instagram Reels includes augmented-reality filters with a range of effects, created both by Instagram and creators. Like TikTok, Instagram Reels’ video-editing tools provide a 3-second countdown timer. The Reels align tool gives creators a way to line up different takes in the same video (like TikTok’s duets feature). Also like TikTok, Instagram Reels lets you speed up or slow down part of the video or audio you’ve selected to help you stay on a beat or make slow-motion videos.
In addition to song clips, Instagram users can record their own audio from their phone’s microphone. Those original-audio clips can then be shared (and are attributed to the original creator) for other Instagram Reels to remix into their videos, a la TikTok.
Instagram is working with Hollywood studios and other entertainment companies to share “original audio” clips. An Instagram rep declined to provide details but said, “We’re working with our TV and film partners across major and independent studios to make their audio clips available to Reels users for launch.”
For now, Instagram Reels will not include ads although Lyons said Instagram is regularly exploring new forms of monetization.