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Instagram announces Reels, a short video feature to take a crack at India’s TikTok market

If you happen to be scrolling through an updated version of Instagram later tonight, you may have noticed a new feature called Reels. Launched at 7.30 pm on July 8, Reels is a short-form video feature which comes with its own array of audio and visual effects as well as other new creative tools.

Currently, there are more than one billion active accounts, 500 million-plus people globally use Stories, more than 50% Instagram accounts use Explore every month, and 90% of people on Instagram globally follow a business. Plsu, in a walkthrough of Reels via Zoom, Ajit Mohan, Vice President and Managing Director at Facebook India, points out that a third of posts that go up on Instagram are videos.

Instagram’s Head of Product Vishal Shah, also present in the Zoom call, explains the new feature is “the future of entertainment”, reflective of the changing culture of Instagram and content creation, adding, “One thing that we are hearing loud and clear from the people that use Instagram is that the ability to watch short-form video is an important part of the experience, but we haven’t really given them an easy way to create the short form.”

How to create a Reel
  • Select Reels at the bottom of the Instagram camera. You’ll see a variety of creative editing tools on the left side of your screen that you can use to create your reel, including:
  • Audio: Search for a song from the Instagram music library for your reel. You can also use your own original audio by simply recording a reel with it.
  • AR Effects: Select one of the many effects in our AR library, created by both Instagram, and creators all over the world, to record multiple clips with different effects.
  • Timer and Countdown: Set the timer to record any of your clips hands-free.
  • Align: Line up objects from your previous clip before recording your next, which helps for seamless transitions like outfit changes or adding new friends into your reel.
  • Speed: Choose to speed up or slow down part of the video or audio you selected, which helps you stay on a beat or make slow motion videos.

With Reels, Instagram users can express themselves while entertaining others, whether by trying out a fun new dance or spreading the message on something they care about. People can record and edit 15-second multi-clip videos with various creative tools on Reels; share them with their followers on Feed; and, if they have a public account, make their reels available to the wider Instagram community through a new space in Explore.

Instagram wants to open this feature up to all their users — businesses, personal users, influencers etcetera — equally. Some features for IGTV and in-Story swipe up links are different across users based on followers, which have been points of contention for millions of users on the platform.

Vishal explains that Instagram has started testing monetisation on IGTV but they are not looking for such a model with Reels right away. Ajit adds, “If you look at the consumer technology space, specifically, it’s been characterised by intense competition… there will be opportunity for small companies to take on the incumbents and we expect that to continue, especially in a driving, enterprising country like India. We have the opportunity to spark light with an entirely new generation of creators and hopefully be able to build global stars from India.”

Filling a space

This may also allude to the massive content migration happening from TikTok to Instagram, post the Central Government’s ban of the Chinese app along with 58 others. Ultimately, Reels has a TikTok-esque look and feel, and the unveiling of such a feature is timely given the aforementioned ban, though Vishal says this feature has been in the works for about a year now.

One concern for users may be the safety aspects of such a feature, as it had been with TikTok over the recent years. Vishal explains Facebook and Instagram’s investment in safety integrity has been a priority, particularly “all the work we are doing from a human moderation perspective but also from a technology perspective where billions of dollars have been invested over the years to ensure the systems are state-of-the-art. We believe we have built the most sophisticated content moderation system. For Reels, those systems get to be used from day one.”

According to Instagram, sharing to Reels in Explore gives people the opportunity to access a larger audience, especially since more than 50% of accounts on Instagram globally visit Explore every month. Explore can showcase an entertaining selection of reels made by public accounts on Instagram, which may inspire people to create their next Reel.

As Instagram continues to roll out more features — and we are sure there are more in the pipeline — users worry that the platform will fall under the same curse as Facebook. Vishal explains, “Part of my core responsibility is to keep Instagram as simple as we can. As we add new things, that is inherently adding complexity and more weight to the atmosphere.” He continues, “As we’re rolling out something new, we think about how that one product or one feature not just evolves itself, but how it impacts the rest of Instagram — it has to be part of the ecosystem, so it takes us a few product development cycles to make sure.” But Vishal also comments that Instagram is not shy about unshipping and removing features if the company believes that is the right thing to do.

Instagram concludes that while this is a test, they are committed to getting the experience right and will continue to learn and build as India creates and shares reels. To see reels from India on the day of launch, do follow #FeelitReelit.

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Printable version | Jun 13, 2021 6:20:20 AM |

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