It's only been out for a short while, but Instagram is already making tweaks to the design of its TikTok-cloning 'Reels' feature as it looks to maximize the appeal of the short-form video option.
And while we don't have any data on Reels usage as yet (though Instagram has said that Reels is taking off in India), the changes have been made in response to initial user feedback, and look to move Reels even more in-line with TikTok's process.
First off, Instagram will now allow users to create Reels of up to 30 seconds.
Reels have thus far been restricted to 15-seconds, in line with TikTok's main focus, but TikTok clips can actually be up to a minute in length, giving users more room to flesh out their creations. Instagram isn't giving Reels users the full minute (though you can, of course, post longer videos to the main Instagram feed), but the expansion to 30 seconds will provide more leeway.
And as noted by TechCrunch, the middle ground option could provide a way to TikTok users to re-purpose their longer TikTok clips to Reels, while still requiring them to re-edit in many cases, thereby making unique Reels content.
In addition to this, Reels creators will now also be able to extend the timer by 10 seconds as they record their clips.
While it's also looking to improve on its native editing tools, with improved trimming and deletion options.
In some ways, it feels like a bad sign that Instagram is already making changes to the Reels design so close to the initial launch, but it's also good that Instagram is trying to learn quickly and align with user behaviors in the app.
Whether Reels can become a bigger thing is hard to say. Initially, Instagram has been pushing Reels as an alternative to TikTok in both India (where TikTok is banned) and the US (where TikTok could be banned), but with negotiations increasingly looking more like TikTok will remain in America, that could see Reels lose any momentum it had gained due to uncertainty over TikTok's future.
Most of the feedback seems to be that Reels is TikTok, but not as good. That could be good enough in India, but if TikTok remains unchanged, it likely won't be enough anywhere else.
But then again, with reports that TikTok's personalization algorithms won't be included in the Oracle/Walmart deal, TikTok could still lose its way, and if it does, having Reels as a pretty close alternative will remain a consideration for many.
As such, Reels could still become a bigger consideration over time, even if TikTok is allowed to remain in the US.