Instagram, owned by tech giant Facebook, has launched its new ‘Reels’ short video feature in 50 countries – including the US – in what appears to be a direct challenge to TikTok. Microsoft is currently in talks to buy the latter.

Not unlike the hugely popular TikTok, Reels allows users to record, edit and post 15-second video clips. The new feature, already tested in several countries including Brazil and Germany, launched in India in early July – about a week after TikTok was banned by Narendra Modi’s government as one of 59 Chinese apps deemed “prejudicial to [the] sovereignty and integrity of India, defense of India, security of state and public order.”

The mass app ban came in the wake of a spike in tensions between India and China after their militaries engaged in a border skirmish. However, TikTok has also been under increasing suspicion by Western governments apparently fearful it’s Beijing-based ownership means it could share user data with the Chinese government. TikTok owners ByteDance have denied the claims.

US President Donald Trump told reporters on August 1 that he would soon sign an executive order banning TikTok in the US, but has since rowed back on the threat by saying it would be allowed to continue operating in the country if it is bought by a US company – and the US Treasury gets “a very substantial” cut of the purchase price “because we’re making it possible for this deal to happen.”

TikTok is rumored to be worth $30 billion or more. Microsoft and ByteDance are aiming to come to an agreement in the coming three weeks, according to a CNBC source cited on Wednesday.

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