TikTok is facing a widespread crackdown due to security concerns, which has left Facebook an opening to take down the rival social network. The company will use Instagram to do it, just like it did with Instagram Stories to keep Snapchat at bay. Instagram launched a new TikTok-esque feature, Reels, in India earlier this month following TikTok’s ban there, and NBC News says Reels will launch in the U.S. and more than 50 other countries next month.
A Facebook spokesperson confirmed the launch to TechCrunch: “We’re excited to bring Reels to more countries, including the U.S., in early August.”
The company didn’t specify which countries would see Reels next month, nor did it confirm a U.S. launch date.
“The community in our test countries has shown so much creativity in short-form video, and we’ve heard from creators and people around the world that they’re eager to get started as well,” the spokesperson added.
Like TikTok, users can create 15-second videos set to music, borrow and remix audio from other people’s videos using Instagram Reels. If a video goes viral, it will be featured in an Instagram-wide “Featured Reels” feed with other popular clips. Reels also includes editing tools so users can adjust the speed of the videos, among other things.
OK, that actually sounds a lot like TikTok.
TikTok hasn’t been banned in the U.S. like it has in other countries, but some companies, like Wells Fargo, are requiring their employees to remove the app from their phones. The U.S. military also requested its personnel remove the app from any government-issued mobile devices in their possession. Allegations that the Chinese Communist Party controls ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, have stoked fears about the Chinese government hacking personal and government-owned devices in the U.S. and other countries to steal information—names, emails, location, and also biometric data that some worry will be stored in China’s facial recognition database.
Facebook doesn’t even need to exploit those fears to convince people to use a brand new TikTok-like app. Instagram is already one of the most popular apps in the world, and adding a feature similar to TikTok directly inside Instagram could convince people to just stay in the app rather than go off-platform for entertaining content. After all, that’s exactly what Facebook did to Snapchat when it snagged the ephemeral Stories feature from its rival for Instagram, and well, we all know how that worked out.