Facebook invents Tiktok
There’s a long, documented history of Facebook cloning other app’s ideas and implementing them as their own, and TikTok is now no exemption with the debut of Reels.
The feature, which is only available in Brazil right now, allows users to create 15-second videos and adjust their speed, add music, or even borrow audio from other people’s videos. These can be added to Stories or sent directly to friends, but also show up in a new area called Top Reels.
In other words, Instagram has now subsumed TikTok. The company tried this previously with an app called Lasso which has been widely panned as a failure, given it failed to build an audience of its own, but that’s not looking at this correctly: that was already the plan all along.
Facebook’s entire strategy for photocopying apps has followed this exact formula: launch an app that clones features from a popular app as standalone first, like Boomerang or Bolt. Both of these apps started as spins on Snapchat Stories, independently of Facebook’s existing networks, allowing the company to experiment with ideas and early adopters.
Once they perfect the concept, Facebook shuts down the app, goes quiet for a while, and relaunches it as a part of an existing property. What’s curious is that this almost always ends up being Instagram, which seems friendlier than the Facebook brand cloning your idea.
Reels has followed the same playbook, down to the finer details, such as launching in a limited market such as Brazil, rather than globally, to drive demand before expanding it globally.
Facebook is back on the PR horn trying to play down the fact that the app is a clone, with Robby Stein, director of product management saying that “no two products are exactly the same” and that “sharing video with music is a pretty universal idea that we think everyone might be interested in using.”
In other words, Facebook wasn’t able to invent it on its own, so it’s claiming the format for everyone as an excuse to copy it. The thing that makes TikTok charming, however, is that it’s not owned by Facebook, and has a very different culture around it than Instagram.
Whether or not Facebook can steal users away from TikTok is another question. Almost every TikTok user is certainly already on Instagram, and TikTok videos are constantly ripped and reposted on the service... but TikTok is popular on its own, despite that, for a reason: they don’t want to use Instagram.
What’s fascinating about all of this is how Facebook wields its sub-brands, like Instagram, to steal features like this without appearing like a giant monopoly firing up the photocopiers. This time, however, it feels brazen, because we’ve seen it all before.
Side note: take the linked article below’s enthusiasm with a grain of salt. Josh Constine is essentially Facebook’s favorite journalist friend, and the piece is as breathless as all of his other coverage of the company.
Google’s ‘Project Nightingale’ gathers American health data in secret
This is a bombshell report that claims Google is gathering healthcare information on up to 50 million Americans, without redacting names or details. The project was revealed by a whistleblower concerned with so much sensitive data being passed in secret, without consent.
Google apparently plans to build “AI tools that help predict health patterns and improve treatment” but it’s not clear what that really means. Google isn’t alone in pushing into healthcare, but most of the other companies, Apple included, don’t appear to be doing this kind of thing in secret.
Good read: The Google Squeeze, by Stratechery