Jul 21, 2022 - Technology

Sweeping changes remake Facebook app in TikTok's image

Illustration of a countdown film leader with the Facebook logo as the number.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Meta announced major changes Thursday to the Facebook app that will transform its experience into a more TikTok-like selection of algorithmically chosen videos — and shunt off content posted by family, friends and groups into a separate side feed.

Why it matters: The move shifts Facebook further from a social network and toward an entertainment and shopping platform like TikTok, which has increasingly challenged Facebook's dominance in user engagement and mobile advertising.

Be smart: The shift is happening in part due to regulatory pressure on social media networks to prioritize data privacy and take more responsibility for misinformation on their platforms, a source told Axios.

  • Policymakers have already introduced a bill that would require tech firms to let users opt out of having algorithms recommend their content to them.
  • The company noted in a statement that the changes are meant to give users more control over what they see and discover on the app.
Facebook feed updates

Details: Beginning Thursday, Facebook's main Home screen will begin to look and feel a lot more like TikTok.

  • The feed will include a vertical display of public posts — mostly video — that are suggested to a user algorithmically based on the type of content Facebook thinks a user is most likely to enjoy and engage with.
  • Users can access Reels, Facebook's TikTok-like video feature, and Stories, Facebook's Snapchat-like ephemeral content feature, from the Home screen.

Additionally, users will begin to see a new Feeds tab on their shortcut bar within the app. The shortcut bar will change based on the parts of the app a user engages with the most, and it can also be customized.

  • The chronological Feeds tab will include the most recent posts from users' friends as well as from the Pages they follow and the groups they have joined.
  • The Feeds tab can be filtered to show all posts from a user's community, or to only show posts from a user's friends, groups, Pages or favorites — which are posts from friends and Pages that a user can select to prioritize.

Between the lines: The main feed is no longer being called the News Feed now that Facebook is de-emphasizing its investment in news content.

  • On Tuesday, Meta's VP of media partnerships Campbell Brown told staffers the company was shifting resources away from its news products, including its separate News tab and its Bulletin newsletter platform, to be able to support more creators broadly.
  • Sources say Meta doesn't plan to renew the news licensing deals that it struck with publishers over the past three years that were worth roughly $90 million, but the company has yet to officially announce such a pullback.
  • In addition to moving away from news, Meta has also de-prioritized investments in audio features and podcasts to focus on other creator tools.

The big picture: By filtering content from personal connections out of the primary Home screen, Facebook's experience will begin to look and feel much more like a content and product discovery engine than a social networking site.

  • That shift will help Facebook lean more heavily into shopping and intent-based search advertising, which is less vulnerable to privacy regulation.
  • Facebook in February told investors that it expects Apple's ad tracking changes to cost it $10 billion in ad revenue in 2022.

Our thought bubble: Facebook spent years building the world's biggest social graph across nearly 3 billion users globally. But that data, which used to be considered Facebook's biggest asset, has become a liability amid global privacy crackdowns.

What's next: The changes to Facebook's mobile apps will roll out to some users beginning Thursday and will be introduced globally over the next week. They will come to desktop and browser versions of the platform later this year.

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