Instagram is out today with a major new release that should crank up the competition between social media apps to another level. “Reels” is rolling out for Instagram users in 50 countries and is focused on entertaining short-form video just like TikTok.

As TikTok is facing a ban in the US (or a sale to an American company), Facebook-owned Instagram has cloned the highly popular platform with its new Reels feature. As for how it’s different from Instagram Stories, Reels offers new creative tools and has a 15-second limit for each mini clip that can be used for a multi-clip video. There’s also a focus on entertainment with new tools and a featured section in the Explore tab.

Here’s how Instagram describes the new feature:

Reels invites you to create fun videos to share with your friends or anyone on Instagram. Record and edit 15-second multi-clip videos with audio, effects, and new creative tools. You can share reels with your followers on Feed, and, if you have a public account, make them available to the wider Instagram community through a new space in Explore. Reels in Explore offers anyone the chance to become a creator on Instagram and reach new audiences on a global stage.

Reels can be found as a new option next to “Story” with the Instagram camera (seen above) and includes the following tools:

Audio: Search for a song from the Instagram music library. You can also use your own original audio by simply recording a reel with it. When you share a reel with original audio, your audio will be attributed to you, and if you have a public account, people can create reels with your audio by selecting “Use Audio” from your reel.
AR Effects: Select one of the many effects in our effect gallery, created both by 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. Once you press record, you’ll see a 3-2-1 countdown, before recording begins for the amount of time you selected.
Align: Line up objects from your previous clip before recording your next to help create seamless transitions for moments 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. This can help you stay on a beat or make slow motion videos.

Instagram detailed how Reels works for public vs. private accounts and how they can be shared in the Explore tab and in your Instagram Feed.

If you have a Public Account: You can share your reel to a dedicated space in Explore, where it has the chance to be seen and discovered by the wider Instagram community. You can also share your reel with your followers by posting it to your Feed. When you share reels featuring certain songs, hashtags, or effects, your reel may also appear on dedicated pages when someone clicks on that song, hashtag, or effect.

If you have your account set to private, Reels will just be viewable by your followers.

Speaking to The Verge, Instagram’s product director shared his thoughts on how Reels compares to TikTok, admitting its competitor paved the way…

Robby Stein, Instagram’s product director, said that while TikTok popularized 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,” Stein told The Verge. “But at the end of the day, no two products are exactly alike, and ours are not either.”

Stein went on to say that Instagram Stories is focused on social while Reels is designed with entertainment in mind.

Reels is rolling out now for both iOS and Android in 50 countries including the US, UK, Australia, Japan. But its help page notes that “Reels is currently being tested and may change in the future. It isn’t available to everyone at this time.”

It doesn’t hurt to be on the latest Instagram update, but it looks like Reels will be a server-side change. If you don’t see the feature right away, keep checking back in the app as it rolls out to more users over time.

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About the Author

Michael Potuck

Michael is an editor for 9to5Mac. Since joining in 2016 he has written more than 3,000 articles including breaking news, reviews, and detailed comparisons and tutorials.