Reels — it’s just like TikTok

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - BUSINESS REPORT - By Mike Isaac

As the Chi­nese­owned video app TikTok works to head off the threat of a ban in the United States, Face­book has sensed op­por­tu­nity.

On Wed­nes­day, Instagram, the pho­to­shar­ing app owned by Face­book, re­leased Reels. Just like TikTok, peo­ple can use Reels to cre­ate 15­se­cond videos that are de­signed to be eas­ily share­able. And just like TikTok, Reels al­lows users to sync up their video record­ings with clips of mu­sic or au­dio files that they record them­selves, while adding other ef­fects, like aug­mented re­al­ity fil­ters.

The tim­ing of the re­lease couldn’t be

Reels, an app hop­ing to ri­val the pop­u­lar TikTok, is dis­played on a mo­bile phone. Face­book’s Instagram of­fi­cially re­leased Reels on Wed­nes­day.

more on the nose. TikTok has been strug­gling through a geopo­lit­i­cal morass with Pres­i­dent Trump. The White House, which has said TikTok is a na­tional se­cu­rity threat be­cause of its own­er­ship by Chi­nese in­ter­net com­pany ByteDance, has said the app must sell its U.S. busi­ness within 45 days or face a ban.

Reels is now avail­able in more than 50 coun­tries, in­clud­ing the United States, Bri­tain and Ja­pan.

It will also be fea­tured in In­dia, one of Face­book’s key growth ar­eas. In June, TikTok was banned in In­dia as part of a crack­down on many Chi­nese apps.

“TikTok is do­ing big things in this for

mat, as have apps and fea­tures like Snap, YouTube and oth­ers,” Instagram said. It added that it had also seen the rise of short videos on its ser­vice and that “no two ser­vices are the same and this re­spon­sive­ness to con­sumer de­mand is com­pe­ti­tion at work and one of the long­time hall­marks of the tech sec­tor. It in­creases choice, which is good for peo­ple.

TikTok did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

Menlo Park’s Face­book has a his­tory of cloning fea­tures or apps from its com­peti­tors. CEO Mark Zucker­berg re­leased Sto­ries for Instagram in 2016, and for Face­book in 2017, as a re­sponse to the popularity of the app Snapchat. Sto­ries was a near­ex­act copy of Snapchat’s Sto­ries, which let peo­ple chron­i­cle their days.

Face­book’s move dented Snapchat’s growth, ac­cord­ing to doc­u­ments that Snap, Snapchat’s par­ent com­pany, filed for its ini­tial pub­lic of­fer­ing in 2017. Evan Spiegel, Snapchat’s founder, has ex­pressed frus­tra­tion at Face­book’s will­ing­ness to copy its com­peti­tors.

In a memo to em­ploy­ees this week, ex­ec­u­tives at TikTok’s par­ent com­pany crit­i­cized Face­book. Zhang Yim­ing, CEO of ByteDance, said that he wished to ex­pand as a global com­pany but that TikTok faced an “in­tense in­ter­na­tional po­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment, the col­li­sion and con­flict of dif­fer­ent cul­tures, and the pla­gia­rism and smear of com­peti­tor Face­book.” Zhang noted the “complex and unimag­in­able dif­fi­cul­ties” his com­pany has faced over the past year, and that it has only grown worse un­der the “un­fair” treat­ment from the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

In a con­gres­sional hear­ing last month with other tech CEOs, Zucker­berg pointed to China and prod­ucts like TikTok as in­no­va­tion that the United States should be wor­ried about, and that TikTok’s as­cen­dancy was grounds to avoid un­duly harsh reg­u­la­tion of Amer­i­can com­pa­nies.

TikTok has long been in Face­book’s sights. As TikTok grew rapidly over the past few years in the United States and else­where, Face­book came up with Lasso, an­other clone of TikTok, in 2018. But Lasso did not catch on with au­di­ences and Face­book shut it down in July.

Tali Arbel / As­so­ci­ated Press

Lionel Bonaventur­e / AFP / Getty Im­ages 2019

Chi­nese­owned TikTok is fac­ing a ban in the United States. Pres­i­dent Trump said it must sell its U.S. busi­ness be­cause it’s a threat to na­tional se­cu­rity.

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