Apps

Instagram has started borrowing features from TikTok

Instagram is looking out for inspiration

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A couple of years back, Instagram and Snapchat were involved in a brutal face-off, each wanting supremacy over the other. Thanks to Snapchat, Stories are now an integral part of not only Instagram but also Facebook and WhatsApp.

In 2019, Snapchat is no longer viewed as a threat to Instagram. A new kid on the block is challenging the status quo — TikTok. Instagram launched a new video editing tool in Brazil that copies some of the best-known features of TikTok.

Dubbed Reels, it lets you create “15-second video clips set to music and share them as Stories,” which can be shared wider via a new “Top Reels” section on the Explore page.

Per a recent tweet from engineer Jane Manchun Wong, this new tool will also let you remix other users’ Scenes if their account is public. Reels is launching today on iOS and Android but is limited to Brazil for now.

 

It’s safe to assume that Instagram is piloting the new feature because a release timeline for other regions isn’t available yet.

Instagram also has IGTV that is essentially a YouTube rival. However, short videos have been the main forte of TikTok and since the death of Vine, there has been a vacuum in this segment. With healthy funding from its Chinese parent Bytedance, TikTok has enough firepower to take on the Facebook-owned app.

In a leaked audio recording, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has also expressed concerns about TikTok’s growth and dominance in certain market. He said that the Chinese company has “married short-form, immersive video with browse. So it’s almost like the ‘Explore Tab’ that we have on Instagram, which is today primarily about feed posts and highlighting different feed posts.”

Instagram previously launched a dedicated video sharing app called Lasso but failed to migrate users over from the primary app. Incorporating similar features in the Instagram app is the best way to ensure users get on board.

 

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Google, Facebook, Twitter resist China’s attempt to censor Hong Kong

China is trying to curb free speech

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Google, Facebook, and Twitter have temporarily stopped processing government requests for user data in Hong Kong. A new security law went into effect on July 1 and Google immediately paused processing requests.

Even WhatsApp has stopped processing further requests. The controversial law is seen as an attempt by China to curb free speech in the former British colony.

Pro-democracy protestors are worried the new law will be used to censor the internet. Twitter cited “grave concerns” about the law”s implications.

This is seen as China’s broader plan to establish its supremacy and expand its ideology. The new law includes the ability to ask publishers to remove information deemed as a threat to national security. Refusal to enact the request could result in a fine or jail time.

Tech companies work in tandem with local law enforcement agencies to moderate content on their platforms. With the new law, processing Hong Kong government’s request would indirectly mean handing over user data and endangering pro-democracy protestors.

In simpler terms, you could be jailed for a social media post that says anything against the administration.

Citizens are actively switching to messaging apps like Signal that provide end-to-end encryption. This helps in masking your identity to a great extent.

Previously, when the internet was shut down to curb protests, citizens used offline messaging apps like Bridgefy and FireChat to spread the world and coordinate protest efforts.

Mainland China has a firewalled internet that is highly censored and constantly surveilled. The irony is, ByteDance’s TikTok isn’t available in China while the rest of the world can freely use it.

TikTok has also officially announced it will be exiting Hong Kong within a few days. But this move is seen as a smokescreen to avoid its Chinese origin.

SEE ALSO: 6 tips to make your phone more private and secure

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US looking to ban Chinese apps like TikTok

TikTok is in grave danger

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the country is “certainly looking at” banning Chinese apps like TikTok. In an interview with Fox News, the senior official said that he doesn’t want to get in front of President Donald Trump, but they’re evaluating the option.

Last week, India announced a list of 59 apps and games that are made by Chinese developers. These apps remain banned in the country citing user privacy issues. TikTok was the worst hit, followed by games like Mobile Legends.

The current geopolitical scenario isn’t in favor of China amid a bloody border skirmish with India. The two countries have decided to de-escalate the situation for the time being. However, the app ban has put the spotlight on shady data collection practices of these developers.

US lawmakers have previously voiced their concern regarding large-scale data collection by apps like TikTok. And, recent reports have confirmed their doubts. TikTok was caught by Apple collecting users’ clipboard data and independent researchers have called the social media app a massive data collection service.

Amid the Coronavirus pandemic, anti-China sentiment has been rising globally. Furthermore, companies like Huawei are already under the scanner and the US has already deemed it to be a national security threat.

While the future of TikTok remains uncertain, companies around the world are trying to make safer options that can bridge its gap. Instagram is actively testing a new feature called Reels and it’ll let you take short 15-second videos. The Indian government has also announced an app challenge that aims to encourage local developers to make Chinese alternatives.

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Instagram actively testing Reels to take on TikTok

Short 15-second videos

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Short videos under 15 seconds have gained massive popularity thanks to platforms like TikTok. Facebook-owned Instagram has been eyeing this space for a while and has reportedly expanded testing its Reels feature in India.

According to Business Insider, the Reels feature is being actively tested in India. This only after just a few days after TikTok was banned in the country.

The app will let the user record 15-second videos, add background soundtrack, as well as include a range of effects.

TikTok has come under immense pressure globally due to its poor data collection policies. The app was recently caught snooping around the user’s clipboard after Apple updated iOS’s privacy features. US lawmakers are worried about user data being collected.

However, Facebook itself is no saint when it comes to handling private user data. The company has a history of mishaps and the platform hasn’t learned anything from its mistakes.

The feature is currently active in Brazil and acts as an extension to Stories. You can find it in Instagram’s camera section, just beside the Boomerang and Super Zoom option.

The company had previously launched a separate app called Lasso. However, it was phased out and Reels was integrated into the Instagram app.

The sudden ban of TikTok has created a vacuum in India and it’s obvious Facebook wants to quickly bridge the gap by providing an alternate service.

Facebook and Instagram recently partnered with Saregama music label in India to provide access to a music library. The Indian government has also launched an app challenge that aims to encourage domestic developers and companies to take advantage of the recent ban.

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