Jun 16, 2022 - Technology

Facebook's next pivot: make its feed more like TikTok's

Illustration of a blue flag with the Facebook "f" logo on it

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Facebook plans to reorient its news feed yet again, this time to emphasize short video content that's popular across the entire platform, according to a leaked April memo first reported by the Verge Wednesday.

Why it matters: This is hardly Facebook's first pivot and won't be its last — but the change shows just how seriously Meta, its parent company, is taking the success of TikTok, which uses a similar approach.

How it works: Meta-owned Instagram has found success with its TikTok knock-off, Reels.

  • Now the company wants to rebuild the Facebook feed around what it calls a "discovery engine" — an algorithm that will try, like TikTok's, to show you videos and other items it thinks you will like, regardless of whether you follow or are friends with their creators.
  • Facebook also plans to move Messenger, its instant messaging service, back inside the main app. It spun Messenger off in 2014.

Yes, but: The revamp aims to enhance Facebook's appeal to younger users, but it risks alienating the large numbers of existing users who still want to share thoughts and pix with family and friends.

What they're saying: The memo's author, Tom Alison, head of the Facebook app, told the Verge, "We are always going to prioritize things that you want to share with your friends... I think the main thing that’s going to change is we’re not really going to put too many limitations on when and where we show recommended content.”

Flashback: In 2018, amid Trump-era concern that the social network was spreading misinformation, founder Mark Zuckerberg announced Facebook would de-emphasize news, politics and branded content in favor of "meaningful social interactions" with friends and family.

The big picture: Facebook has already changed its name to Meta and announced it's all in on delivering a virtual-reality-based future in the form of the metaverse.

  • It will need the profits from its Facebook platform to fund that expensive long-term vision, and can't afford to see its social network lose primacy to a rival.
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