Instagram has launched its new short-form video creator tool Reels in the UK, designed to be a direct rival to TikTok.
From Wednesday, users will find a new Reels section inside the Instagram app where users can create 15-second videos using filters, music and other tools – similar to TikTok.
But the Facebook-owned platform has denied the UK rollout is a response to the ongoing controversy around TikTok, which US president Donald Trump has threatened to ban over security fears and allegations of links to the Chinese state.
Vishal Shah, Instagram’s vice president of product, said the app has been working on the tool “for over a year”, and that platforms often took inspiration from each other when creating new features.
“I think the consumer product ecosystem is one that’s constantly being inspired by the things that people are doing around then, whether that’s internally in your own organisation or more broadly,” he told the PA news agency.
“I think the fact that people have a choice and that they can pick from a different set of apps to use and find the one that works for them, I think, is great.
“I also think that not any one company can invent everything – we take for granted now that it’s very common for mobile products to have a feed, that was new when Facebook brought it to scale.”
Mr Shah said Instagram had also seen demand from its users for its own short-form video editing tool and that giving content creators a choice was important in the app market, highlighting how Instagram had previously integrated the time-sensitive posts known as Stories into the app.
“(Introducing) Stories in 2016 was one where we give full credit to Snapchat in terms of inventing the format and we then absolutely took it and made it our own,” Mr Shah said.
“I think of short-form video in very much the same vein – TikTok certainly didn’t invent short-form video, I think they’ve done a lot of really amazing work to make it their own, and I think we’ve been inspired by that great work, but then want to take that and integrate that into Instagram in a different way.”
The social media giant also believes its user base of over one billion people – considerably larger than TikTok and other short-form video apps – will be a key selling point in drawing content creators to the platform.
As well as being able to share videos to their traditional Instagram feed and Stories, a new, dedicated area in the Explore panel is also being introduced, which Instagram says will help creators be seen and discovered by the wider Instagram community.
“The future of Instagram is really focused on friends and interests but also entertainment, and Reels is a really important part of that,” Mr Shah said.
“The thing that’s most important to me is that anyone can create this content – we’re not limiting it to professional content creators or professional producers.
“The fact that these tools are really easily accessible means anyone can create this, and therefore the next generation of creators can be discovered, and success for me would be if we can find someone who has never really found an audience on another platform or even Instagram, but can use Reels as a way to showcase their talent or the thing that they’re passionate about and reach a new audience.”