Instagram has launched a new feature called Reels, which is simply imitating what the short video app Tik Tok does. The new feature in Instagram allows recording 15-second videos, selecting music clips on them, then sharing them as a story on the social network owned by Facebook, and the Reels feature can also be found in a special section of the Explore tab within the app.
In nearly all functions, the Reels feature is the same as TikTok, but is integrated within the Instagram app. Simply put, if Facebook buys a TikTok app from its parent company ByteDance, and integrates it into Instagram as is, it will be this new product.
Wait, isn’t Tik Tok for sale in the market right now? Yes, this is true, but of course Facebook cannot consider acquiring another emerging social app, and it is currently under investigation about the same practices with other social apps.
Therefore, with the difficulty of the purchase process, Facebook did what it would do if the purchase failed. Yes, activate imitation and destroy mode for this app. To be fair, there is one difference. Instead of fearing the possibility that the government of China will collect your data, you can be sure that Facebook is collecting it as usual.
Instagram Reels Not The First Try!
The timing of the global launch of Reels was very important, given the uncertain future of TikTok in the United States, as the Trump administration is considering either banning the app, which is owned by the Chinese company, entirely or forcing it to sell its operations to an American company. However, Facebook’s plans to respond to TikTok threats have been underway for some time.
In late 2018, Facebook released a version similar to the popular video-sharing app TikTok called Lasso, but the app did not take off and was shut down this year. Despite its lack of success as a standalone product, Lasso represents Facebook’s ability to run large-scale beta tests that do not generate any profits, allowing the company to collect a huge amount of user behavior data, which can be used when creating new features for its main applications, as it does with Reels feature on Instagram.
After Lasso tests, a Reels feature was released in Brazil in November 2019, and it was called Cenas, to see how Instagram app users would respond to a different type of mobile video experience. Then these tests expanded outside the US to markets such as India and parts of Europe this year.
Facebook and inflated sense of paranoia!
Far from ridiculing this entire absurd position, Facebook’s product development roadmap appears to focus more on supporting and promoting itself against a smaller, smarter competitor, rather than offering any kind of really new or really innovative features. Well, when was the last time you remembered Facebook offering us an innovative feature? In fact, when was the last time a fake Facebook app or feature was successful? Maybe it was Instagram posting of stories, oh moment please, this is also a copycat of a Snapchat feature also called, coincidentally, stories.
This is not to say that the Reels feature will fail or be bad, so if TikTok disappears tomorrow, its users will find a familiar and usable alternative from a network they know well: Instagram. The problem here is that imitation is very different from innovation, and it seems that Facebook is so concerned about its position within the world of social media that it is difficult to remember the last time the company introduced any development or innovative new feature in a useful way within this world.
In reality, this happens to every business at some point. Work grows, then finds a level of success, and tries to stay at that level, and certainly no one will be able to deny that Facebook has achieved tremendous success in the world of social communication, but the problem is that with the magnification of this success, the sense of self is amplified, and the attempts to impose more and more control over The market and the competitors, and the more attempt to imitate and crush them completely, then amplifies an increasing sense of paranoia, with which it is difficult to think of innovative features or solutions.
Could Facebook imitate TikTok’s “secret sauce”?
The Reels feature definitely didn’t cost the company any need to think, and it required virtually no product or market research. And it certainly isn’t that difficult for a team of talented engineers, like those who work at Facebook, to copy an app they already have on their own phones.
But is that really the best that a company the size of Facebook can offer right now? Are you just copying and mimicking other social media apps?
Then there is the fact that the thing that makes TikTok so popular is not only the distinctive interface of the application, yes it is very easy to record, edit and upload video inside the app. But the app’s real secret mixture is inside its algorithm, this is where all the magic happens, that algorithm that makes the user stick to the phone inside the app for hours and hours without even realizing it.
On the other hand, for Facebook, the algorithm is where the headache begins. Because the process of reverse engineering the algorithm is much more complex than engineering the user interface and application code itself, which is why it can be called a “secret mix”, which is what makes it different.
The question on Facebook is what makes it so different from the rest, regardless of the sheer size of the company? The first part of the question, “What makes it different,” is the same question that every business needs to answer.
Conversely, if you spend all of your time trying to eliminate your competitors by imitating their features, you can easily lose track of innovation. Ultimately, innovation is a much better way to delight your customers than to provide a service they already get elsewhere and better.