As TikTok’s future becomes more and more uncertain, especially in the US, after Trump announced a ban against the video-sharing app and Microsoft showed interest in buying it, other social media giants are starting to launch their own TikTok copycats. Unsurprisingly, Facebook is among them. Yesterday, on 5 August, Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, launched its new TikTok competitor called Reels in more than 50 countries including the US, the UK, Japan, and Australia. Available on both iOS and Android, what differentiates Reels from TikTok, and could it really replace the Chinese-owned app?
Just like TikTok, Reels lets Instagram users create short-form videos set to music, which can then be shared with friends and followers or discovered while browsing the app. Reels lives entirely inside of Instagram—it’s not a new app. It is Instagram’s latest opportunity to bring in new users, increase the amount of time people spend on the app and establish itself as the new TikTok.
Reels allows you to record videos up to 15 seconds long and add music on top it as well as an array of filters and effects. For many content creators and influencers, Reels could well be a new way to build a following. Along with the new feature’s launch, Instagram has also updated its Explore page in order to create a specific landing spot for Reels at the top of the screen. Users can then vertically scroll through the different Reels posted by others in a very similar way to TikTok’s ‘For You Page’.
On Reels, videos can be shared both in private and public mode. Users who only want to share their videos with friends can post them from a private account on their feed and Instagram Stories. On the contrary, if you want to become the new version of TikTok’s collab houses members, then you will definitely want to share your Reels on a public profile to allow them to be easily discovered by other users.
Open your Instagram app in order to make a ‘Reel’. Slide to a new section of the camera, which now comes with a brand new assortment of tools. Reels can be recorded either all at once or as a series of clips, just like on TikTok. Users can also upload videos from their photo gallery.
The camera’s new features are pretty similar to TikTok’s. Users can play with the speed of their footage, apply crazy effects, pick a song or audio to put on top and use face filters.
For now, people are not able to ‘duet’ with each other on Reels—a TikTok feature that lets people interact with and remix videos. Instagram also won’t allow people to upload songs directly into the app’s system, which means that musicians looking to use the app as a place to make a song go viral can’t upload it directly.
Speaking to The Verge, Instagram’s product director Robby Stein explained that even though TikTok popularised the short video format, the two products are different. “I think TikTok deserves a ton of credit for popularizing formats in this space, and it’s just great work. But at the end of the day, no two products are exactly alike, and ours are not either.”
Let’s be honest here, Reels is very similar to TikTok, just like Instagram Stories were very similar to Snapchat Stories. What seems to make this blatant copying acceptable is that, in the end, Instagram’s features always end up being more successful than what it initially copied. Yes, TikTok was the first app to make lip-syncing and dance videos cool, but Instagram will probably do it even better.
Unlike TikTok and other copycats such as Triller, Instagram Reels is just another feature for Instagram users to play with. Whether Reels will become our number one favourite video-sharing platform remains unsure but what we’re definitely planning to get on it and find out for ourselves. And, even if you’re not up for it right now, we’re sure we’ll see you on there in less than a month.
As the TikTok saga continues to unfold, with President Trump banning the app in the US and Microsoft interested in buying it, many users are starting to realise the risk that the video-sharing app might represent when it comes to their data privacy. But the controversy brings one more problem to light: what are we going to do without TikTok? That’s where Triller comes in to save the day.
Initially released in 2015, the LA-based video-sharing app Triller has recently shot to number one in the app store in 50 countries. Similar to TikTok—so much so that people call it ‘the new TikTok’—Triller is a video-sharing platform where music is an integral part of the process. Triller’s CEO Mike Lu launched the app with the goal of “finding the next Justin Bieber or Chris Brown.”
While TikTok started as Musical.ly, a lip-syncing app that was extremely popular among pre-teens, Triller came on the market with a bang. The 3 biggest music companies (Sony, Universal, Warner) are all invested in the app, and so are dozens of artists (including The Weeknd, Lil’ Wayne and Kendrick Lamar). Co-owner of Triller, Jaeson Ma told The Hustle that some artists have compared the two apps and said: “TikTok is America’s Got Talent. Triller is MTV.”
The “music video maker app”, as it is described on Triller’s website, has shot to number one in the app store in countries such as the US, Australia, France, Britain, and Italy.
Like TikTok, Triller lets you record yourself lip-syncing or performing a song. The main difference is that the platform’s editing algorithm edits videos for you using “intelligent audio and facial analysis to decide when to cut.”
TikTok’s AI specialises in search and recommendations whereas Triller’s AI ‘edge’ is its ability to seamlessly edit music with videos and photos. Triller also integrates music players like Apple Music into the platform, which means that every time an artist’s song is played, it counts as a stream and the specific artist gets paid just like they do on Spotify. The real difference between TikTok and Triller lies in the fact that Triller appears to have its sight set on working with the music industry.
Furthermore, Triller’s ‘Discover’ pages are somewhat different from TikTok’s. Triller categorises its Discover page with ‘Leaderboards’, genre categorisation, promoted campaigns, and top videos. TikTok, on the other hand, displays trending hashtags, top videos, and promoted campaigns. The challenges that are promoted on Triller’s Discover page are almost always from hip-hop artists, whereas TikTok doesn’t seem to favour any specific musical genre.
As another competitor in an increasingly crowded industry, Triller decided to join in on the action with the help of some major players. Started by app developers David Leiberman and Sammy Rubin (also creators of Disney Frozen: Karaoke), Triller later brought on award-winning music video director Colin Tilley who has previously worked with Kendrick Lamar, Justin Bieber, Nicki Minaj, and more.
In early 2019, Chance The Rapper, Cardi B and Chris Brown started posting on Triller. Because of the deals the app put in place with specific music labels, the videos could be shared without being taken down. From there, Triller’s content started making a name for itself around the internet.
According to Ma, Triller hasn’t “spent a dollar on marketing or influencer acquisition. We are a platform for artists. We empower artists to get their brand out in a way that is authentic to them. And that’s why they all post for free on the platform.”
At the very end of July 2020, after months of TikTok controversy, Josh Richards, Griffin Johnson, Noah Beck, and Anthony Reeves announced they were leaving TikTok over security and privacy concerns.
The four influencers initially rose to fame as members of TikTok collective Sway House. After announcing that they would be leaving the app, the TikTokers asked their combined following of 50 million followers to join them on Triller instead.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Josh Richards, who now has more than 250,000 followers on Triller, will act as chief strategy officer. Noah Beck, Griffin Johnson, and Anthony Reeves have signed on as investors and equity shareholders. However, even after this announcement, all four influencers have since then continued to post on TikTok.
While Triller certainly looks like it could become the next TikTok, other TikTokers such as Dixie D’Amelio, who has 32 million followers, and Addison Rae, who has 53.3 million followers have remained ‘loyal’ to TikTok and only urged their followers to follow them on Instagram and YouTube instead if something were to happen to the Chinese-owned app.
India has already banned TikTok from the beginning of July. Meanwhile, lawmakers in Japan are currently pushing to ban the app, while politicians in Australia and the UK are considering similar measures.
While Triller’s initial focus is music, the platform also hosts TikTok-type content of all sorts: comedy, cooking, fitness. Speaking about the next few steps for the growing platform, Ma said: “With our recent acquisition of Halogen Networks, Triller is expanding into more live and premium content that is exclusive to the platform.[…] Along with Eros Innovations, we closed a deal to have Triller be the home for the comeback fight between Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr. The bout is scheduled for 12 September and you can watch exclusive training videos on Triller in the lead-up to the PPV date.”
Triller has also gained significant new investors from the music industry, including Snoop Dogg, important managers and other notable industry executives. The app has reported a 500 per cent month-over-month growth and reached in July 2020, 55 million active monthly users and 8 million active daily users around the world, according to Forbes.
As we’ve seen with many other social media and video-sharing platforms—remember Vine?—only time will tell how Triller will play out. While we await the verdict on TikTok’s data privacy issues, perhaps it is time for us to move on to the next big thing and create a Triller account. As we’ve explained previously, it looks like Triller won’t be such an extreme change from TikTok.