YouTube Reels: Just Another Knock-off?

YouTube has recently announced its own edition of the Stories feature–Reels. As part of its effort to “expand Community”, the video sharing platform is beta-testing what it terms “YouTube’s spin on the popular ‘stories’ format”. For now, it is only open to select YouTube creators and subscribers, who are part of the YouTube Community beta-test.

A Little Bit of History

[Snapchat] First to introduce the idea of ‘Stories’ was Snapchat. The idea was that users could upload snippets of their life, which would then automatically disappear after 24 hours on the platform. Snapchat Stories, unlike their regular messaging counterpart (which could only be viewed once), could be viewed an unlimited number of times a day.

Image courtesy of Complex.

[Instagram] The idea soon became so popular that Instagram (which was, by then, owned by Facebook) blatantly copied it. In its statement introducing the feature, Instagram said that their choice to incorporate it was largely due to the popularity of the “format”. By terming it a format, Instagram was suggesting that rather than copying a feature of Snapchat’s, it was merely allowing its users to express itself through a particular method. In the same way that two writers who choose to express themselves through poetry cannot be said to be plagiarizing each other, Instagram was effectively arguing that they, too, were not copying off of Snapchat.

That being said, Instagram Stories has definitely gained in popularity over the past few months since its conception, introducing various other features that either rival those of Snapchat’s or outstrip them completely. Other than teenagers in the United States, who still prefer Snapchat over other social media platforms, users from all across the world except for China (where many non-Chinese social media platforms are banned), now prefer to use Facebook-owned products (including Facebook itself, Facebook messenger, Whatsapp and Instagram).

Original image cropped from Statista.

[Facebook] Shortly after, Stories was then also introduced onto Facebook. While the Instagram department in Facebook celebrates its success, however, those in charge of Facebook Stories clearly should not be doing the same.

Image courtesy of The Verge.

Facebook’s Stories has done so badly that Instagram released an option to allow people to cross-share their Instagram Stories onto Facebook. But if Facebook was hoping that its Stories section would become much more popular from the move, it is sure to have been disappointed.

[Whatsapp Status and Messenger Day] Rather than sticking to the one platform that was successful with Stories, Facebook decided to implement the feature in both its messaging apps, Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp, as well.

Image courtesy of


Image courtesy of Social Media Examiner.

While Snapchat did manage to cross the divide between being a social media and a messaging platform, it does not seem that either one of the Facebook-owned messengers has been able to do the same. Stories has not become a widely used feature either on Whatsapp or on Messenger. This might owe to the fact that Whatsapp and Messenger are largely text-based platforms, unlike Snapchat, which uses images and videos to get its messages across.

Reels: Just Another Knock-Off?

So what will become of YouTube Reels?

YouTube has claimed that its spin-off is “designed specifically for YouTube creators” and gives users the option to link to YouTube videos and even provides users with “YouTube-y stickers”. Furthermore, YouTube has also given creators the option of leaving their videos on the Reels section for more than 24 hours.

We think the success of YouTube Reels depends on the success of its other Community-based features. If YouTube successfully manages to get creators and subscribers to interact with each other through YouTube, rather than through other platforms, Reels may just be able to take off.

Of course, it also depends on how creators make use of Reels. If they choose to use it in the same way that they do all other Stories, then the feature is unlikely to become widely used, given that most subscribers on YouTube also have their creator on other platforms such as Instagram or Snapchat. If, however, Reels is used in a manner specific to YouTube, such as allowing subscribers to see creators in the filming or the post-production process, offering viewers a behind-the-scenes perspective, Reels may actually find itself being used despite the Stories-saturated environment.

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