Instagram launches TikTok clone week after antitrust hearing

Instagram launches TikTok clone week after antitrust hearing
© Getty Images

Facebook's Instagram launched a direct competitor to short-form video app TikTok in 50 countries Wednesday amid antitrust scrutiny.

Reels, which is available within Instagram on iOS and Android, lets users edit together 15-second clips with music.

Instagram will now include Reels in its Explore page, allowing users to scroll through them vertically, much like TikTok's for you page.

ADVERTISEMENT

The launch of Reels comes as President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew Biden campaign ad jabs at Trump's reported 0 income tax payments Ocasio-Cortez: Trump contributed less in taxes 'than waitresses and undocumented immigrants' Third judge orders Postal Service to halt delivery cuts MORE threatens to block TikTok from operating in the U.S. over its ties to China.

The short-form video app's parent company, ByteDance, is headquartered in and operates out of Beijing, though TikTok's American data has been moved to servers in the U.S.

Although it is legally questionable whether Trump has he authority to ban an app, the Treasury Department's Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) has reportedly asked ByteDance to sell off TikTok.

Microsoft confirmed Sunday that it has been exploring a deal to purchase the app after speaking with Trump.

Microsoft said that it would complete discussions with TikTok by Sept. 15. The companies have both provided a notice of intent to the CFIUS to explore a proposal that would give Microsoft ownership of the app in United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. 

The launch of Reels also comes one week after executives from America's biggest tech companies, including Facebook, testified before Congress on competition in the digital marketplace.

ADVERTISEMENT

Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergHillicon Valley: Productivity, fatigue, cybersecurity emerge as top concerns amid pandemic | Facebook critics launch alternative oversight board | Google to temporarily bar election ads after polls close Conservative groups seek to block Facebook election grants in four swing states: report Facebook critics launch alternative oversight board MORE was questioned over Facebook's history of adding features nearly identical to those offered by other apps.

Facebook has already tried to mimic TikTok's staggering success with Lasso, a separate application with similar features. The app was shut down last month after failing to win over fans in test markets.

Instagram has also borrowed from Snap in the past with its Stories feature, that allows users to post videos and pictures that disappear after 24 hours.

It is unclear whether any actions being taken by Instagram would violate U.S. antitrust law, which is focused on protecting consumers.

The “consumer welfare standard” requires regulators to provide evidence of consumer harm - normally a substantial increase in prices - before an antitrust case can be brought.

Given that neither Reels nor TikTok charge fees to its users, proving that kind of harm becomes difficult.

Experts and lawmakers have called for overhauling antitrust laws to include consideration of things like data accumulation when evaluating mergers and acquisitions, but any such change is likely to take time and appetite for that sort of reform appears minimal in Congress.

ByteDance has been critical of Facebook both for launching Reels and suggesting that Chinese owned apps are not committed to data privacy, saying those claims are "plagiarism and defamation."

TikTok, however, debuted its short-form video format years after the launch of Vine, which was shut down in 2017.