For most of Facebook’s history, executives have run a tried-and-true playbook: mimicking the success of others.
On Thursday, the company, which has been rebranded as Meta, continued that tactic with a revamp of its main Facebook app that will change the way users browse the service and make it act a little more like one of its biggest competitors. .
Facebook users will soon open the app in a new Home tab with a feed of photos, looping videos and status updates from a mix of friends and family. The Home tab also shows a variety of posts from people and pages not connected to a user’s network, labeled “Suggested for you.”
That category will be driven by what Facebook’s algorithms think someone would like to see, based on thousands of individual information signals and the user’s browsing history on Facebook. The so-called discovery engine behind those algorithms is powered by Facebook’s artificial intelligence technology.
Basically, the Facebook app will become more like TikTok, the Chinese social media app. While Facebook has traditionally connected people with content produced by their friends, video-based TikTok relies on algorithmic signals and viral content to show viewers highly engaging posts, without relying on anyone’s network of friends or connections.
The change is part of a push by Meta to boost the use of its social apps, including Instagram. In recent months, Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Meta, has been promoting video products on Instagram and Facebook, with the company inserting more suggested content to keep users engaged and returning to the apps regularly. On Instagram, the formula seems to work, Zuckerberg said.
The Home tab follows a popular social media trend known as “discovery,” which essentially relies on algorithms and machine learning to better understand and display the types of content a user likes without the person having to push hard. work to find it. Facebook is investing heavily in that area, as are companies like Snap and Twitter.
TikTok’s emphasis on discovery and providing engaging content is a social media phenomenon. TikTok was founded less than a decade ago and has added hundreds of millions of users over the past few years. Young people watch TikTok for more than 90 minutes a day by some estimates, and even YouTube is outpacing the time they spend in the app.
That has put pressure on the Meta family of apps. Executives have become concerned about the proportion of younger users migrating to TikTok and other emerging social media apps. To curb churn, Facebook and Instagram executives made product changes that track competitors’ movements. In 2020, Instagram introduced Reels, a short-form video product, which is almost identical to TikTok’s.
Meta has made major changes to the way its products work in the past, occasionally ticking off its user base. But the new changes are more subtle and happen over time. The Home tab will still be populated with posts from friends and groups and will slowly introduce external content as more videos and Reels posts from influencers are ramped up. While that approach has been successful for TikTok, it’s unclear whether Facebook’s users will embrace the changes — or even notice.
In the Facebook app update, users should expect more short videos and roles in the Home tab as the company refines its algorithms and improves the discovery experience. Home content can also include photos or articles from pages and groups that a user is not yet following.
Users can still choose to only view content from friends, family, or certain pages – without seeing unconnected, suggested posts – by navigating to the new Feeds tab. The Feeds tab allows people to view content in categories like posts from friends, posts from groups they belong to and pages they’re subscribed to, or a stream of everything combined and posted in reverse chronological order.
Mr. Zuckerberg said people still have control over what they see in the app with the Feeds tab.
“One of Facebook’s most requested features is to make sure people don’t miss out on friends’ posts,” he said in a Facebook post. “The app still opens a personalized feed in the Home tab, where our discovery engine will recommend the content we think you’ll find most important. But the Feeds tab gives you a way to further customize and manage your experience.”
The update of the Facebook app will be rolled out worldwide in the coming week.