Instagram is expanding its TikTok competitor known as “Reels” to new markets, following its launch last year in Brazil. Starting today, Instagram is rolling out further access to Reels in France and Germany, allowing users to record short, 15-second video clips set to music or other audio, then share them on the platform where they have the potential to go viral.
The Reels feature is similar to TikTok in that it presents a set of editing tools that make it easier to film creative videos. At launch, for example, Reels offered a countdown timer, the ability to adjust the video’s speed, and other effects.
The company learned from its early tests in Brazil and has since rethought key aspects to the Reels experience.
Before, Reels were meant to be shared only within Instagram Stories. But the Instagram community said they wanted the ability to share Reels with followers and friends in a more permanent way, and also have the opportunity to expand that distribution more broadly if desired.
In addition, the community said they wanted a dedicated space where they could easily compile Reels and watch other people’s Reels.
With the expansion in Germany and France, Instagram has moved Reels to a dedicated space on the user Profile and in Explore — the latter for public accounts — so people can share with a new audience and share on their Instagram Feed, a company spokesperson tells TechCrunch.
These changes offer the chance for more exposure for both Reels and their creators, as Reels becomes more of a destination in the app — like the Stories row is today, for instance.
Reels are not Facebook’s first attempt at challenging TikTok’s growing popularity.
The Instagram parent company had previously launched short-form video app Lasso, but it has so far failed to gain significant traction. With Reels, however, Instagram is able to tap into its existing base of creators and leverage users’ familiarity with its video editing tools.
The challenge for Reels is in getting Instagram users to create a different type of content than they do today in Feed posts and in Stories. Those video tend to be more personal in nature — like clips from someone’s day or a vlog, for example. Meanwhile, more professional creator content has been relocated to IGTV.
TikTok videos, on the other hand, tend to be rehearsed and choreographed. Users learn a dance, perform a trick, make jokes, lip-sync to songs or audio, or replicate a popular meme in their own way. These videos are not typically off-the-cuff, as on Instagram. Encouraging this content requires a different editing toolset and workflow, which is what Reels offers.
Instagram didn’t say when it plans to roll out Reels globally or when it expects to bring the product to the U.S. but says the further expansion will allow the company to continue to build on the existing experience and evolve the product.
AWS launches Amazon Honeycode, a no-code mobile and web app builder
AWS today announced the beta launch of Amazon Honeycode, a new, fully managed low-code/no-code development tool that aims to make it easy for anybody in a company to build their own applications. All of this, of course, is backed by a database in AWS and a web-based, drag-and-drop interface builder.
Developers can build applications for up to 20 users for free. After that, they pay per user and for the storage their applications take up.
“Customers have told us that the need for custom applications far outstrips the capacity of developers to create them,” said AWS VP Larry Augustin in the announcement. “Now with Amazon Honeycode, almost anyone can create powerful custom mobile and web applications without the need to write code.”
Like similar tools, Honeycode provides users with a set of templates for common use cases like to-do list applications, customer trackers, surveys, schedules and inventory management. Traditionally, AWS argues, a lot of businesses have relied on shared spreadsheets to do these things.
“Customers try to solve for the static nature of spreadsheets by emailing them back and forth, but all of the emailing just compounds the inefficiency because email is slow, doesn’t scale, and introduces versioning and data syncing errors,” the company notes in today’s announcement. “As a result, people often prefer having custom applications built, but the demand for custom programming often outstrips developer capacity, creating a situation where teams either need to wait for developers to free up or have to hire expensive consultants to build applications.”
It’s no surprise then that Honeycode uses a spreadsheet view as its core data interface, which makes sense, given how familiar virtually every potential user is with this concept. To manipulate data, users can work with standard spreadsheet-style formulas, which seems to be about the closest the service gets to actual programming. ‘Builders,” as AWS calls Honeycode users, can also set up notifications, reminders and approval workflows within the service.
AWS says these databases can easily scale up to 100,000 rows per workbook. With this, AWS argues, users can then focus on building their applications without having to worry about the underlying infrastructure.
As of now, it doesn’t look like users will be able to bring in any outside data sources, though that may still be on the company’s roadmap. On the other hand, these kinds of integrations would also complicate the process of building an app and it looks like AWS is trying to keep things simple for now.
Honeycode currently only runs in the AWS US West region in Oregon but is coming to other regions soon.
Among Honeycode’s first customers are SmugMug and Slack.
“We’re excited about the opportunity that Amazon Honeycode creates for teams to build apps to drive and adapt to today’s ever-changing business landscape,” said Brad Armstrong, VP of Business and Corporate Development at Slack in today’s release. “We see Amazon Honeycode as a great complement and extension to Slack and are excited about the opportunity to work together to create ways for our joint customers to work more efficiently and to do more with their data than ever before.”
Slack announces Connect, an improved way for companies to talk to one another
Virtual events are the new norm for product rollouts in 2020, with Slack taking to the internet earlier today to talk about a new part of its service called Slack Connect.
On the heels of Apple’s lengthy and pretty good virtual WWDC that took place earlier this week, Slack’s event, part experiment and part press conference, was called to detail the firm’s new Slack Connect capability, which will allow companies to better link together and communicate inside of their Slack instance than what was possible with its shared channels feature. The product was described inside of a business-to-business context, including examples about companies needing to chat with agencies and other external vendors.
In its most basic form, Slack is well-known for internal chat functionality, helping teams talk amongst themselves. Slack Connect appears to be a progression past that idea, pushing internal communications tooling to allow companies to plug their private comms into the private comms of other orgs, linking them for simple communication while keeping the entire affair secure.
Slack Connect, a evolution past what shared channels offered, includes better security tooling and the ability to share channels across 20 orgs. The enterprise SaaS company is also working to give Connect-using companies “the ability to form DM connections independent of channels,” the company told TechCrunch.
The product could slim down email usage; if Slack Connect can let many orgs chat amongst themselves, perhaps fewer emails will be needed to keep different companies in sync. That said, Slack is hardly a quiet product. During his part of the presentation, Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield noted that the service sees up to 65 million messages sent each second at peak times.
According to the CEO, Slack Connect has been piloted for a few months, and is now available for paid plans.
Slack shares are off 3.8% today, before the news came out. Its broader company cohort (SaaS) are also down today, along with the market more broadly; investors don’t appear to have reacted to this piece of news, at least yet.
Apple has acquired Fleetsmith, a startup that helps IT manage Apple devices remotely
At a time when IT has to help employees set up and manage devices remotely, a service that simplifies those processes could certainly come in handy. Apple recognized that, and acquired Fleetsmith today, a startup that helps companies do precisely that with Apple devices.
While Apple didn’t publicize the acquisition, it has confirmed the deal with TechCrunch, while Fleetsmith announced the deal in a company blog post. Neither company was sharing the purchase price.
The startup has built technology that takes advantage of Apple’s Device Enrollment Program, allowing IT departments to bring devices online as soon as the employee takes it out of the box and powers it up.
At the time of its $30 million Series B funding last year, CEO Zack Blum explained the company’s core value proposition: “From a customer perspective, they can ship devices directly to their employees. The employee unwraps it, connects to Wi-Fi and the device is enrolled automatically in Fleetsmith,” Blum explained at that time.
Over time, the company has layered on other useful pieces beyond automating device registration, like updating devices automatically with OS and security updates, while letting IT see a dashboard of the status of all devices under management, all in a pretty slick interface.
While Apple will in all likelihood continue to work with Jamf, the leader in the Apple device management space, this acquisition gives the company a remote management option at a time when it’s essential with so many employees working from home.
Fleetsmith, which has raised more than $40 million from investors, like Menlo Ventures, Tiger Global Management, Upfront Ventures and Harrison Metal, will continue to sell the product through the company website, according to the blog post.
The founders put a happy face on the deal, as founders tend to do. “We’re thrilled to join Apple. Our shared values of putting the customer at the center of everything we do without sacrificing privacy and security, means we can truly meet our mission, delivering Fleetsmith to businesses and institutions of all sizes, around the world,” they wrote.