As TikTok fights to stay alive in the U.S. over the government’s investigation into its activities on the suspicion that it’s enabling the Chinese government to spy on the U.S., it seems there is yet another battle it has to fight: Instagram.
Instagram is launching a video-music remix feature that will replicate major functionality of the Chinese Social media, the “Reels” feature. Instagram is not developing it as a separate app though; it’s introduced as a new feature in the app’s stories.
“Instagram is launching a video-music remix feature to finally fight back against Chinese social rival TikTok. Instagram Reels lets you make 15-second video clips set to music and share them as Stories, with the potential to go viral on a new Top Reels section of Explore. Just like TikTok, users can soundtrack their Reels with a huge catalog of music, or borrow the audio from anyone else’s video to create a remix of their meme or joke” – TechCrunch.
The Reels will enable users to create short videos which can be shared and remixed, a feature so typical of TikTok. Although Instagram director of product management, Robby Stein, gave the credit to musically, it is an obvious rip off. He told Techcrunch:
“I think Musically before TikTok, and TikTok deserve a ton of credit for popularizing this format.”
One thing is clear from this blatant attempt to discredit TikTok in a bid to justify the replication – Facebook has become wary of TikTok, and it is just one of the many promising social media platforms that have made it paranoid.
In 2008, Myspace was commanding the usage of over 75 million people monthly, a number that drastically fail in two in the space of two years, due to the emergence of Facebook. It was not a tragedy that Myspace saw coming, neither were they ready to handle it. So the once bubbling social media site became a once-upon-a-time tale. Facebook knows that it could be next if it doesn’t tread carefully, and the paranoia has left them with two options whenever they figure out a potential threat: Buy or copy.
Armed with a great number of over 2 billion users and a lot of cash to spread around, Facebook took the position of the defender and the attacker at the same time.
In 2012, Instagram was just two years old, commanding 30 million users, with the potential to amass more. It had something Facebook didn’t have, and people were finding it captivating. Facebook was going to clone it, whatever it was that kept more people going to Instagram, but on second thought, they changed their mind. Why duplicate a function that you can buy in full? Mark Zuckerberg rolled out $1 billion, and Instagram became part of Facebook.
In 2014, Facebook doled out a whopping $19 billion for the messaging App Whatsapp. It’s become a threat to Facebook messenger, taking millions of people off Facebook with the speed of raging fire. All efforts to tame the tide by improving Facebook Messenger were unsuccessful. So Mark activated the first option in neutralizing a threat – Whatsapp became part of Facebook.
Around that time, another potential threat was lurking in the corner, though not visible enough. Until a huge number of young people started turning away from the features that Facebook once used to entice them – it was no longer cool. It was then that Facebook saw who was receiving the large number of people it was losing – Snapchat.
Facebook knew it’s another war it has to win using any of the options in its arsenal. The statement they issued then confirmed that:
“We believe that some of our users, particularly our younger users, are aware of and are actively engaging with other products and services similar to, or as a substitute for, Facebook. For example, in the third quarter of 2013, the best data available to us suggested that while usage by U.S. teens overall was stable, DAUs among younger teens in the United States had declined.”
It was more of a call for action than acknowledgement that it’s losing on many ends. In the next few years, Facebook was aggressively offering to buy Snapchat, and attempt that did not materialize like in other cases because Snapchat refused to sell. Their decision not to sell only meant one thing; Facebook would activate option number 2, which they did.
Facebook started cloning many of Snapchat’s features and functions, the mimicry got to the point that Miranda Kerr, the fiancé of Snap Inc. CEO Evan Spiegel took a shot at them. She said:
“Can they not be innovative? Do they have to steal all of my partner’s ideas? I’m so appalled by that… when you directly copy someone, that’s not innovation, it’s a disgrace. How do you sleep at night.”?
Many would have been glad if the story ended with Snapchat, but it didn’t, and didn’t surprise them either. TikTok has become the latest victim of the bully’s paranoia, a symptom of phobia of being relegated by a newcomer. Though most of the cloned Snapchat’s functions didn’t survive the test, the attempt slowed Snapchat down, and it took a couple of years before it got back again on its feet.
TikTok may face the same fate, and in the face of current government’s inquiry into its activities, the recovery may take longer. Though Instagram said the feature will only be available in Brazil for now, it doesn’t need a rocket to get to other countries. With Facebook user numbers and financial status, eliminating competition has become more of a figure of speech than a rigorous action.
The call to break Facebook up has been because of its ever growing influence, a dangerous trajectory to the competitiveness of the tech industry.