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Instagram takes on TikTok, Kwai in Brazil with new video-music remix feature

“No two services are the same,” an Instagram spokeswoman said while acknowledging that TikTok is doing “big things” in the short video format.

Photo by Luke van Zyl on Unsplash Photo by Luke van Zyl on Unsplash

Instagram has launched a new video-music remix feature in Brazil, marking its entry into a market already dominated by Chinese-owned apps such as TikTok.

The new feature, Reels, allows users to make 15-second video clips set to music and share them as stories. Like TikTok, which is owned by Beijing-based Bytedance, Reels allows users to select a song from a music library and speed up or slow down the music.

“TikTok is doing big things in this format, as have other apps and features,” an Instagram spokeswoman said in an email. “No two services are the same, and this responsiveness to consumer demand is competition at work and one of the long-time hallmarks of the tech sector. It increases choice, which is good for consumers.”

Facebook-owned Instagram chose Brazil as the testing ground for the new feature because of its “vibrant and active community”, according to the spokeswoman.

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg recently criticized TikTok, saying it censored political protest including in the US.

Seven-year-old start-up Bytedance, reportedly valued at USD 78 billion last year, has faced mounting pressure over recent months from US senators amid rising concerns over national security issues and alleged censorship.

TikTok has repeatedly defended itself over data privacy and security, saying that the company stores US user data locally with backup redundancy in Singapore.

The short-video app is one of the very few Chinese-owned apps to have achieved international success. It currently ranks second after Netflix in the entertainment category in the App Store and sixth on Google Play in Brazil, according to data on Sensor Tower.

Another popular Chinese short-video sharing app Kuaishou, known outside China as Kwai, has also been topping app store charts in Brazil, showing its potential to be the next viral video app in the South American market after TikTok.

Kwai signaled its intentions to expand further in the South American market with the opening of its first office in Brazil’s largest city, Sao Paulo, last week. The video app already has 7 million daily active users in Brazil, the largest country in South America, and is one of the top three most downloaded apps in the country on both Google Play and Apple’s App Store, according to data provider Sensor Tower.

“The Brazilian people have a strong interest in social media and we see great opportunities in the country,” said Wu Yan, Kuaishou Technology’s Director of Global Operations, in a press release last Friday.

Tencent Holdings-backed Kuaishou has 200 million daily active users as of May 2019, according to the company’s website. Aside from Brazil, it has also expanded to countries including South Korea, Russia, Vietnam, and India.

Kuaishou also owns another video-sharing app, Vstatus, which allows users to create and share videos on their WhatsApp statuses. Vstatus has ranked among the top 10 apps in Brazil on the Google Play app store since August, although it is not available on the App Store yet.

This article first appeared on the South China Morning Post.