For most of Facebook’s history, its leaders have followed a tried and true pattern: emulate the success of others.
On Thursday, the company, which has been renamed Meta, continued that tactic with an update to its core Facebook app that will change how users browse the service and make it look a little more like one of its biggest competitors.
Facebook users will soon open the app in a new Home tab, which will feature a feed of photos, video loops, and status updates from friends and family. The Home tab will also display various posts from people and pages not connected to the user’s network marked “Suggested for you”.
This category will be determined by what Facebook’s algorithms think someone might like, based on thousands of individual information signals and the user’s Facebook browsing history. The so-called detection mechanism behind these algorithms is based on Facebook’s artificial intelligence technology.
In short, the Facebook app will be more like TikTok, the Chinese social media app. While Facebook has historically connected people to content created by their friends, video-based TikTok relies on algorithmic cues and viral content to deliver highly engaging messages to viewers without relying on someone’s network of friends or connections.
The change is part of Meta’s push to drive usage of its social apps, including Instagram. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta, has been promoting video products on Instagram and Facebook in recent months, with the company inserting more featured content to keep users engaged and returning to the apps regularly. According to Zuckerberg, the formula works on Instagram.
The Home tab follows a popular social media trend known as “discovery” which essentially relies on algorithms and machine learning to better understand the types of content a user might like and deliver it with little effort to find it. . Facebook is investing heavily in this area, as are companies like Snap and Twitter.
TikTok’s focus on discovering and delivering engaging content has become a social media phenomenon. Founded less than a decade ago, TikTok has attracted hundreds of millions of users over the past few years. Young people spend more than 90 minutes a day watching TikTok, by some estimates surpassing even YouTube in time spent inside the app.
This put pressure on the Meta family of applications. Its executives are concerned that a proportion of younger users are moving to TikTok and other promising social media apps. To combat churn, Facebook and Instagram executives have made product changes to follow in the footsteps of competitors. In 2020, Instagram introduced Reels, a short looped video product almost identical to TikTok.
In the past, Meta has made big changes to how its products work, increasing the number of users from time to time. But new changes occur more subtly and over time. The Home tab will continue to be populated with posts from friends and groups and will gradually add external content while increasing the number of videos and posts from influencers. While this approach has proven successful for TikTok, it’s unclear if Facebook users will accept the change – or if they’ll notice at all.
In the Facebook app update, users should expect to see more short videos and clips on the Home tab as the company improves algorithms and improves the search experience. Home content may also include photos or articles from pages and groups that the user has not yet followed.
Users can still only view content from friends, family, or specific pages – without viewing unrelated recommended posts – by navigating to the new Channels tab. In the Channels tab, people can view content in categories such as posts from friends, posts from groups they belong to and pages they follow, or a stream of everything combined and posted in reverse chronological order.
Mr. Zuckerberg said people will still be in control of what they see on the app through the Channels tab.
“One of the most requested features of Facebook is making sure people don’t miss friends’ posts,” he said in a Facebook post. “The app will still open a personalized feed in the Home tab, where our search engine will recommend the content we think you’ll be most interested in. But the Channels tab gives you the ability to further customize and control your experience.”
The Facebook app update will be rolled out worldwide within the next week.
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