In growing battle with TikTok, Facebook to test ‘Facebook Reels’ in the U.S.

Reels are coming to Facebook in the U.S. The company this morning announced it will begin testing a new feature, Facebook Reels, which will give Facebook users the ability to create and share short-form video content directly within the News Feed or within Facebook Groups. The addition is an expansion of tests launched earlier this year in India, Mexico and Canada, which had focused on bringing short-form videos to Facebook users, including by sharing existing Instagram Reels to Facebook, as had been reported.

In addition, Facebook today says it will also test a new feature that will give Instagram creators in the U.S. the option to have their Instagram Reels shown as recommended content on Facebook. If the creators opt in, their videos will appear in the “Reels” section in users’ News Feed, alongside other Reels created on Facebook.

There will be many places where users can create Reels from Facebook, as the new feature launches.

Initially, you’ll be able to tap a “Create” button from the Reels’ section that appears as you scroll the News Feed, while you’re watching Reels, or by tapping on “Reels” at the top of your News Feed. From here, users will gain access to a standard set of creation tools, including those for video capture, music selection, camera roll import, timed text, and more — much like you would have access to on Instagram.

For audio, you can either choose a song from Facebook’s music library, record your own original audio, or even use someone else’s audio, if their Reels are set to “public.” There are also a variety of effects and editing tools to choose from, including a timer for recording Reels hands-free, tools to speed up or slow down a part of the video or your original audio, and a number of augmented reality effects created either by Facebook or third-party developers.

Facebook told us that, for the time being, “most” of Instagram Reels’ features will also be available on Facebook Reels. But other features — like Remix (its take on TikTok’s side-by-side videos called Duets) — will be added over time as the test scales to more people. The user interface for Reels may also evolve over time to look somewhat different from Reels on Instagram, depending on user feedback.

After a Reel has been created, you can choose who to share it with — such as “Friends,” a specific audience like “Friends except…”, or the general public. The latter is the default setting.

The feature will be made available within Facebook Groups, where Reels can be created then shared with members of the community who have similar interests.

Users can also choose to tap into “My Reels,” to view past creations. And you can browse Reels created by others in the News Feed, and in select Groups and Pages — where you can like, comment or share them, just as you could with any other type of post. Reels will now be surfaced in Search results, too, Facebook told us.

Like much of what appears on Facebook, Reels will be recommended to users based on what people are interested in, what they engage with, and what’s broadly popular. This will apply to both the shared Instagram Reels and the Facebook Reels.

Image Credits: Facebook (Reels in Groups)

The company explained the decision to replicate the Reels product inside Facebook is a result of consumers’ growing interest in video, and particularly short-form video. Today, video accounts for almost half of all time spent on Facebook, in fact. On Facebook’s latest earnings call, CEO Mark Zuckerberg remarked that Reels was “already the largest contributor to engagement growth on Instagram,” given the popularity of short-form video.

“We’re very focused on making it easy for anyone to create video, and then for those videos to be viewed across all of our different services, starting with Facebook and Instagram first,” he had told investors.

But Facebook also understands that people have different communities and audiences on Instagram and Facebook, so simply offering a cross-posting option may not have sufficed.

However, for existing Reels creators who do want to tap into Facebook’s large audience, a new option will allow them to opt-in to have their Reels shared to Facebook. This could be useful for those producing more general-interest Reels content.

These shared Reels will display the creator’s Instagram username, as well, which could help them to build a following. Creators’ Reels can also be remixed, with the creator’s permission, and their original audio can be re-used in other people’s Reels — again, much like on TikTok.

This feature will also be first introduced as a “test,” Facebook said.

While Instagram is already beginning to monetize Reels through ads, Facebook told us that Reels on Facebook don’t currently include ads. But: “we plan to roll out ads in the future,” a Facebook spokesperson added.

Image Credits: Facebook (sharing Instagram Reels to Facebook opt-in flow)

 

Reels, which is Facebook’s answer to the growing threat of TikTok, first launched to global audiences a year ago. This launch alone was not enough to win Instagram the top spot as the world’s most downloaded mobile app. In 2020, that win went to TikTok, after years where Facebook-owned apps dominated the top charts. And TikTok today continues to sit at the top of App Store charts in terms of both app installs and consumer spending, according to multiple third-party reports. 

For Facebook, TikTok represents an existential threat to its business. If users’ time and attention are being spent elsewhere, Facebook’s advertisers could then follow, impacting Facebook’s bottom line. So instead of competing with TikTok in just one app, Facebook is now using two. And it’s leveraging its apps’ interoperability to ensure the best content can easily flow to both places.

The company is also directly investing in the creator community in hopes of tipping the scales back in its direction.

In July, the company announced a plan to invest over $1 billion in creators across both Facebook and Instagram through 2022. This fund will reward more than just Reels’ creators, to be clear, as it will also pay out bonuses for videos with in-stream ads enabled or for enabling IGTV ads, among other things. It will also bonus top creators who have invited fans to send them tips in the form of a virtual currency, “stars.” But Instagram Reels, and now Facebook Reels, will be looped into that initiative.

Today, Facebook said it will announce additional bonus programs and seed funding in the months ahead that will pay out bonuses for Reels on Facebook. These will be funded from that $1 billion commitment. The company declined to share details on this front, but this news alone indicates Facebook Reels is far more than just “a test” in Facebook’s eyes.

The new Facebook Reels features will begin to roll out starting today, Aug. 19, in the U.S. It will first be available to a “small percentage” of U.S. users on iOS and Android.

The feature will continue to operate in India, Mexico and Canada, as well.

#apps, #canada, #computing, #facebook, #facebook-stories, #india, #instagram, #instagram-reels, #like-button, #mexico, #news-feed, #reels, #social, #social-media, #social-software, #software, #tiktok, #united-states, #video-hosting

Streamlabs launches Crossclip, a new tool for sharing Twitch clips to TikTok, Instagram and YouTube

The company behind ubiquitous livestreaming software Streamlabs is introducing a new way for streamers to share their gaming highlights to platforms well beyond Twitch. Streamlabs calls the new tool Crossclip, and it’s available now as an iOS app and as a lightweight web tool.

With Crossclip, creators can easily convert Twitch clips into a format friendly to TikTok, Instagram Reels, YouTube Shorts and Facebook videos. Adapting a snippet from Twitch that you’d like to share is as simple as putting in the clip’s URL and choosing an output format (landscape, vertical or square) and a pre-loaded layout.

Crossclip iOS app

You can crop the clip’s length within Crossclip, blur part of the background and choose from a handful of layouts that let you place the frames in different places (to show the facecam view and the stream view together in vertical orientation, for example).

Crossclip’s core functionality is free, but a premium subscription version ($4.99/month or $49.99/year) removes a branded watermark and unlocks exports in 1080/60fps, larger uploads, added layers and pushes your edits to the front of the processing queue.

Discovery on Twitch is tough. Established streamers grow their audiences easily but anybody just getting started usually has to slog through long stretches of lonely Stardew Valley sessions with only the occasional viewer popping in to say hi. The idea behind Crossclip is to make it easier for streamers to build audiences on other social networks that have better discoverability features, subcommunities and tags to make that process less grueling.

“For a creator, making your content more discoverable is a huge advantage,” Streamlabs Head of Product Ashray Urs told TechCrunch. “When you consider the most popular Twitch streamers, you will notice that they have extremely popular YouTube channels and actively post on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok. If you aren’t sharing content and building your audience with different platforms, you’re making things more difficult for yourself.”

Urs notes that creators are increasingly using TikTok’s algorithmic discovery abilities to grow their audiences. TikTok’s recent addition of longer, three-minute videos is a boon for many kinds of creators interested in leveraging the platform, including gamers and other Twitch streamers.

Anyone with an established audience will find Crossclip a breeze to use too, making it dead-simple to share gaming highlights or Just Chatting clips wherever they’re trying to build up a following. The average clip conversation takes two to three minutes and is a simple one-click process. There are a few tools out there that have similar functionality, independent web tool StreamLadder probably being the most notable, but Streamlabs takes the same idea, refines it and adds a mobile app.

Streamlabs, now owned by Logitech, has released a few useful products in recent months. In February, the company launched Willow, its own link-in-bio tool with built-in tipping. In May, Streamlabs deepened its relationship with TikTok — an emerging hub for all kinds of gaming content — adding the ability to “go live” on TikTok into its core livestreaming platform, Streamlabs OBS.

#computing, #digital-media, #facebook, #instagram-reels, #livestreaming, #logitech, #social, #social-networks, #software, #stardew-valley, #streamlabs, #tc, #tiktok, #twitch, #video-hosting, #willow, #youtube

Instagram’s TikTok rival, Reels, rolls out ads worldwide

Instagram Reels are getting ads. The company announced today it’s launching ads in its short-form video platform and TikTok rival, Reels, to businesses and advertisers worldwide. The ads will be up to 30 seconds in length, like Reels themselves, and vertical in format, similar to ads found in Instagram Stories. Also like Reels, the new ads will loop, and people will be able to like, comment, and save them, the same as other Reels videos.

The company had previously tested Reels ads in select markets earlier this year, including India, Brazil, Germany, and Australia, then expanded those tests to Canada, France, the U.K. and the U.S. more recently. Early adopters of the new format have included brands like BMW, Nestlé (Nespresso), Louis Vuitton, Netflix, Uber, and others.

Instagram tells us the ads will appear in most places users view Reels content, including on the Reels tab, Reels in Stories, Reels in Explore, and Reels in your Instagram Feed, and will appear in between individual Reels posted by users. However, in order to be served a Reels ad, the user first needs to be in the immersive, full-screen Reels viewer.

Image Credits: Instagram

The company couldn’t say how often a user might see a Reels ad, noting that the number of ads a viewer may encounter will vary based on how they use Instagram. But the company is monitoring user sentiment around ads themselves, and the overall commercially of Reels, it says.

Like Instagram’s other advertising products, Reels ads will launch with an auction-based model. But so far, Instagram is declining to share any sort of performance metrics around how those ads are doing, based on tests. Nor is it yet offering advertisers any creator tools or templates that could help them get started with Reels ads. Instead, Instagram likey assumes advertisers already have creative assets on hand or know how to make them, because of Reels ads’ similarities to other vertical video ads found elsewhere, including on Instagram’s competitors.

While vertical video has already shown the potential for driving consumers to e-commerce shopping sites, Instagram hasn’t yet taken advantage of Reels ads to drive users to its built-in Instagram Shops, though that seems like a natural next step as it attempts to tie the different parts of its app together.

But perhaps ahead of that step, Instagram needs to make Reels a more compelling destination — something other TikTok rivals, which now include both Snap and YouTube — have done by funding creator content directly. Instagram, meanwhile, had made offers to select TikTok stars directly.

The launch of Instagram Reels ads follows news of TikTok’s climbing ad prices. Bloomberg reported this month that TikTok is now asking for more than $1.4 million for a home page takeover ad in the U.S., as of the third quarter, which will jump to $1.8 million by Q4 and more than $2 million on a holiday. Though the company is still building its ads team and advertisers haven’t yet allocated large portions of their video budget to the app, that tends to follow user growth — and TikTok now has over 100 million monthly active users in the U.S.

Both apps, Instagram and TikTok, now have over a billion monthly active users on a global basis, though Reels is only a part of the larger Instagram platform. For comparison, Instagram Stories is used by some 500 million users, which demonstrates Instagram’s ability to drive traffic to different areas of its app. Instagram declined to share how many users Reels has as of today.

#advertising, #advertising-tech, #apps, #digital-marketing, #instagram, #instagram-reels, #mobile, #mobile-software, #online-advertising, #reels, #short-form-video, #social, #social-media-marketing, #tiktok, #vertical-video, #video, #video-hosting

Facebook tests TikTok-style video format on its main app in India

Facebook is going all in on short-form videos. After flirting with the idea in Lasso, a TikTok-clone it tested in select markets, and adding a similar feature to Instagram recently, the company is exploring a new venue for this TikTok-esque experience: The big blue app.

The company confirmed to TechCrunch that it is testing short-form videos in the Facebook app in India, its biggest market by users. In the current avatar, ‘Short Videos’ has a dedicated section within the news feed. On top of it sits the ‘Create’ button, tapping which prompts Facebook Camera to launch, and users can browse through videos by swiping up.

“We’re always testing new creative tools so we can learn about how people want to express themselves. Short form videos are extremely popular and we are looking at new ways to provide this experience for people to connect, create and share on Facebook,” a Facebook spokesperson told TechCrunch.

Matt Navarra, a social media consultant, first revealed the existence of the new test.

The test comes as Facebook continues to cash in on the absence of TikTok, the ByteDance -owned app that was banned by India in late June, in the country. Facebook launched Reels in India last month weeks before launching it to dozens of additional markets. A source familiar with the matter said the daily engagement of Facebook’s services in India has increased by more than 25% since the ban on TikTok.

Scores of local startups, including Twitter-backed ShareChat and Times Internet’s Gaana and MX Player streaming services, have launched standalone apps or integrated features to replicate the social experience TikTok provided to users in recent weeks. The local apps have claimed to have added tens of million of new users during the period.

YouTube has also rolled out a similar feature, still in testing phase, to more users in India in recent weeks.

Image: TechCrunch

The urgency in Facebook’s attempt to court users with short-form videos comes as TikTok is plotting ways to re-enter the market. ByteDance is engaging with Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries to sell stake in TikTok’s local business, TechCrunch reported earlier this week.

#apps, #asia, #bytedance, #facebook, #facebook-india, #instagram, #instagram-reels, #jio-platforms, #lasso, #reliance, #reliance-jio, #social, #techcrunch, #youtube

Instagram Reels launches globally in over 50 countries, including US

Instagram Reels, the company’s significant effort in challenging TikTok on short-form creative content, is launching globally, starting today. The feature is being made available across 50 countries, including the U.S., as TechCrunch had previously reported. The expansion means Reels will now be available in key international markets, such as India, Brazil, France, Germany, the U.K., Japan, Australia, Spain, Mexico, Argentina and several others.

The timing is fortuitous, given TikTok’s uncertain future in the U.S. as the Trump administration weighs either banning the Chinese-owned app entirely or forcing it to sell off its U.S. operations.

However, Facebook’s plans to respond to the TikTok threat were underway well before now.

In late 2018, Facebook launched a TikTok clone called Lasso. The app didn’t take off and was shuttered this year. Though unsuccessful as a standalone product, Lasso represents Facebook’s ability to run what are essentially large-scale beta tests that don’t have to generate revenue. This allows Facebook to collect a sizable amount of user behavioral data that can then be put to use when building new features for flagship apps, like it’s doing with Instagram Reels.

Following Lasso’s tests, Instagram released Reels in Brazil in November 2019, where it was called Cenas, to see how Instagram users would respond to a different sort of mobile video experience.

Those tests steadily expanded outside the U.S. to markets like India and parts of Europe in 2020.

With Reels, Instagram’s goal is not just to capture the now potentially up-for-grabs TikTok audience in the U.S. — it’s to steal them away even if TikTok remains.

Image Credits: Instagram

Today, Instagram caters to a certain kind of creator community that doesn’t always overlap with the younger, Gen Z (and up) user base that’s found a home on TikTok. (And Gen Alpha, if we’re being honest.) Instead, Instagram users either share polished, curated photos to their Feed; publish personal and casual videos in Stories; or share almost YouTube-like creator content to IGTV. Meanwhile, Instagram’s browsing experience hasn’t offered a way to quickly swipe through videos like on TikTok.

Image Credits: Instagram

Reels aims to change that. The feature lets users create and publish 15-second videos using a new set of editing tools that include options like AR effects, a countdown timer, a new align tool to line up different takes and, of course, music. Instagram’s deals with major record labels mean users won’t have to wonder if their sound will later be removed due to a rights issue and will offer a variety of musical content right out of the gate.

A comprehensive audio catalog could be a competitive advantage for Reels — not to mention a feature that’s difficult for smaller apps to acquire due to the complicated nature of record label negotiations.

When TikTok users recently descended on rival apps upon news of a potential TikTok ban in the U.S., one of their chief complaints was the lack of good music or popular sounds. Some even republished their favorites under hashtags like #sounds or #TikToksounds in an effort to rebuild TikTok’s catalog via user-generated uploads.

Instagram understood the importance of music — not just editing tools, workflow and discovery — in helping its TikTok competitor thrive. TikTok, after all, has its own record label contracts — though the extent of those deals haven’t been widely published.

“We think it’s really important to honor the rights of the music labels — and that’s one we’ve been working on for years now,” said Instagram head of Product, Vishal Shah. “We’re launching Reels now in countries where we have rights. We think that the catalog is quite deep and it has some unique content that you can’t really find, at that depth, in other platforms. At the same time, we wanted to make sure that all the restrictions that we needed to put in place — whether that was on the country basis or what could people download and use and remix etc. — were all built into the product from from day one. That’s something we’ve been working with the labels on and was an important consideration in the launch,” he added.

What he didn’t mention is that Instagram’s music industry relationships aren’t only with the record labels. The company has deals with other publishers and independents as well, which have been part of the company’s ongoing partnership efforts and strategic negotiations that are helping fuel other Facebook products, like the recent launch of Music Videos. 

Image Credits: Instagram

Using Reels is easy because it’s built into the Instagram Camera that people already know how to use. To create a new Reel, you’ll select the option at the bottom of the Instagram Camera, next to Story. The editing tools then pop up on the left side of the screen, which is where you’ll find the AR effects and other options, like the timer, speed and align features.

Like other Instagram posts, Reels can be saved to Drafts while they’re a work in progress. When ready to go live, Reels can be pushed out across key surfaces in the app — including Stories, Stories with Close Friends only or as a DM. If you have a public Instagram account, you also can publish Reels to the wider Instagram audience, which will discover them within a new space in Explore.

Image Credits: Instagram

Reels can also be captioned and hashtagged, and friends can be tagged — allowing Instagram to leverage the size and scale of its user base to help the new feature go viral. If Reels are published to Stories, they’ll disappear in 24 hours. Otherwise, Reels will continue to live on in a new tab on users’ profiles.

To watch Reels from Explore, users are presented in a vertical feed personalized to your interests, similar to TikTok. “Featured” Reels are those chosen by Instagram to guide users to original content and will be labeled accordingly.

Overall, what Instagram has built isn’t all that differentiated from TikTok. But nor is it a direct clone.

Instead, Instagram has turned the entirety of the TikTok experience into a single feature among many others within its own app. That’s been a formula for success in the past — Instagram Stories is now bigger than all of Snapchat, for instance.

But TikTok has built something that may not be as easily replicated: a community of users who started their social media lives with underage accounts on Musical.ly. They grew up with the app, lived through the TikTok rebranding and now may see no need to switch — unless TikTok actually does disappear.

Or, as my tween put it when a friend told her TikTok wasn’t really going to be banned: “So Instagram built Reels for nothing?”

#apps, #facebook, #instagram, #instagram-reels, #reels, #social, #tiktok, #video, #video-apps

Facebook expands Instagram Reels to India

As scores of startups look to cash in on the video content void that ban on TikTok and other Chinese apps has created in India, a big challenger is ready to try its hand.

Instagram said on Wednesday it is rolling out Reels — a feature that allows users to create short-form videos (up to 15 seconds long) set to music or other audio — to a “broad” user base in India. The Facebook -owned service first began testing Reels late last year.

Video is already a popular way how many Indians engage on Instagram. “Videos make up over a third of all posts in India,” said Ajit Mohan, the head of Facebook India, in a call with reporters Wednesday. And in general, about 45% of all videos posted on Instagram are of 15 seconds or shorter, said Vishal Shah, VP of Product at Facebook.

So a broad test of Reels, which is also currently being tested in Brazil, France, and Germany, in India was only natural, he said, dismissing the characterization that the new feature’s ability had anything to do with a recent New Delhi order.

India banned 59 apps and services developed by Chinese firms citing privacy and security concerns last week. Among the apps that have been blocked in the country includes TikTok, ByteDance’s app that has offered a similar functionality as Reels for years.

TikTok identified India as its biggest market outside of China. Late last year, TikTok said it had amassed over 200 million users in the country, and the firm was looking to expand that figure to at least 300 million this year.

In the event of TikTok’s absence, a number of startups including Twitter-backed Sharechat, Chingari, InMobi Group’s Roposo, and Mitron have ramped up their efforts and have claimed to court tens of millions of users. Sharechat said it had doubled its daily active users in a matter of days to more than 25 million.

Gaana, a music streaming service owned by Indian conglomerate Times Internet, rolled out HotShots on Tuesday that curates user generated videos. Gaana had more than 150 million monthly active users as of earlier this year.

But Instagram, which has already attracted tens of thousands of influencers in India, is perhaps best positioned to take on TikTok in the world’s second largest internet market. Instagram had about 165 million monthly active users last month, up from 110 million in June last year, according to mobile insights firm App Annie, data of which an industry executive shared with TechCrunch. Mohan declined to comment on Instagram’s user base in India.

Mohan said he was hopeful that Instagram Reels would enable several content creators in India to gain followers globally. The platform has already courted several popular names including Ammy Virk, Gippy Grewal, Komal Pandey, Jahnavi Dasetty aka Mahathalli, Indrani Biswas aka Wondermunna, Radhika Bangia, RJ Abhinav and Ankush Bhaguna.

Reels videos will appear on Instagram’s Explore tab, enabling users to reach a broader audience than their own following base. Users can also share Reels as “Stories” though in that case the video will not appear in Explore tab and will disappear after 24 hours.

In recent years, platforms such as TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram have attracted more than a million content creators, several of whom have made it their livelihood. Just as equally impressive is who these creators are: Beauticians, dieticians, high school students from small towns in India, elderly who speak languages that very few people understand.

People who have been massively underrepresented in mainstream Bollywood movies and speeches of politicians have found a platform and gained a following that challenged the mainstream media’s reach. Many of these creators were making thousands of dollars through advertisers and deals with brands. Not everyone will, however, be able to find a replacement of TikTok.

Sajith Pai, Director at venture firm Blume, told TechCrunch that YouTube and Instagram would be able to court the top influencers from TikTok and other platforms. “But beyond a point, they won’t be bandying out much incentive to other creators.”

In the run up to the launch of Reels, Facebook has secured deals with several Indian music labels including Saregama in India. Also ahead of Reels’ availability in India, Facebook announced it was shutting down Lasso, its another attempt at taking on short-form videos.

Instagram Lite, another Facebook app that is especially popular in developing markets, was pulled from Google Play Store last month. When asked about it, Shah said the company has identified some issues in it and is working to resolve those.

#apps, #asia, #facebook, #gaana, #india, #instagram, #instagram-reels, #reels, #social, #tiktok

Facebook is shutting down Lasso, its TikTok clone

Facebook is no longer betting on Lasso, an app it launched a year and a half ago, to take on TikTok . The social juggernaut’s TikTok clone is shutting down on July 10, Lasso alerted users on Wednesday.

Launched in late 2018, Lasso was seen as Facebook’s answer to TikTok that’s gained ground with young users, both in China and in the West. Lasso allowed users shoot up to 15-second long videos and overlay popular songs. The app centered around an algorithmic feed of recommended videos, but also allowed users to tap through hashtags or a Browse page of themed collections.

As of February, Lasso was available in Colombia, Mexico, the U.S., Argentina, Chile, Peru, Panama, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Ecuador, and Uruguay, research firm Sensor Tower told TechCrunch. Earlier this year, Facebook added support for Hindi language in Lasso, suggesting that it may have had plans to bring Lasso to India, its biggest market by users account.

Lasso’s demise comes ahead of the launch of Instagram Reels — the new horse Facebook is counting on to steal TikTok’s lunch, said Josh Constine, who first spotted Lasso’s announcement.

It’s unclear why Facebook never expanded Lasso to more markets. But what is clear is that Lasso’s journey was troubled from the beginning. Brady Voss, who led the development of this app, left Facebook days after the launch of Lasso.

We have reached out to Facebook for comment.

#apps, #asia, #facebook, #facebook-lasso, #instagram, #instagram-reels, #lasso, #reels, #social, #tiktok