A few years ago, when Snapchat was at the peak of its popularity, Instagram and then Facebook rushed to offer similar features to this new competitor, with a particular emphasis – successfully for Instagram – on stories. Today it is very clear another mighty rooster in the yard, this time from China. In 2021, TikTok stripped Facebook of the crown of the most downloaded social app in the world. As you might expect, the latter does not intend to let go, even if it means borrowing a little from the former.
Emphasis on video
In the letter he saw The Verge, Facebook boss Tom Alison outlined the future outlines of the app, in what appears to be one of the biggest overhauls in nearly five years. Recently, the reals he joined another of Meta’s social networks from Instagram, but that was obviously not enough. The instruction in the subtext is now clearer: the operation of Facebook’s algorithm must be as close as possible to that of TikTok.
Exit recommendations based on the accounts that users follow, priority will be given to popular posts, regardless of their origin. The goal is to become a “discovery engine” (discovery-engine), a term shared by Tom Alison and Mark Zuckerberg. In practice, what might this look like? Logically, the emphasis will be more on the video. A mix in between will be offered on the home page stories i realsfollowed by posts recommended by the “discovery engine” from Facebook, but also from Instagram.
The second big loan from TikTok will come in the form of a delay in order to carry out one of the most controversial measures that Meta has taken in recent years. As on the Chinese platform (and Instagram), instant messaging will return to the main app. Messenger will be available again from the upper right corner of the screen.
These new ambitions have caused a mild wind of panic among the company’s employees, who are worried about a slightly too obvious copy of TikTok. “I think there is a real risk in this approach of losing sight of our fundamental differentiation (social chart and human choice) in favor of hunting for short-term interests and tendencies.”, replied one of them to Tom Alison’s letter. The latter then wanted to be convincing, emphasizing that priority would always be given “Things people want to share with their friends”but also reminding users “open the app often without explicit intent”.
More AI, too much AI?
The leader also assured that groups will always be an important dimension of Facebook, even if they integrate reals. It is possible that these communities will soon be available directly to the left of the news, in a design similar to that offered by Discord with its servers. Meta teams are also working on a project called Mr. T, which would allow access to the chronological version to feed, sorted by followed groups, pages and friends. The concept is a little closer to the original Facebook design.
Internally, it seems that employees are not very inclined to attach too much importance to proposals based on artificial intelligence, as is already the case on Instagram Explore and Facebook Watch. If these two functionalities enabled the increase of time spent on applications by proposing new topics to users, they were also manipulated by external elements, favoring the spread of false information and state propaganda – capital entities in a full health crisis or during the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. In 2016, Facebook has already strengthened its algorithm to avoid too many abuses of this kind. But if we get a little closer to the TikTok model, will these embankments be enough?