Facebook forsakes friends and family to compete with TikTok

Facebook forsakes friends and family to compete with TikTok


Facebook announced Thursday it’s overhauling the design of its flagship social network by elevating content from creators over posts from friends and family in an effort to fend off intensifying competition for users’ attention from TikTok.

In a statement, Facebook said users’ default screen, known as Home, will display more entertaining posts from outside creators and will provide easy access to Facebook’s short-form video service known as Reels as well its ephemeral video product known as Stories.

Users who want to see the most recent posts from friends, family and favorite pages and groups will find them on a new “Feeds” tab. Users will be able to create a Favorites list of people and groups they most want to see content from.

“The app will still open to a personalized feed on the Home tab, where our discovery engine will recommend the content we think you’ll care most about,” Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said in a post. “But the Feeds tab will give you a way to customize and control your experience further.”

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Facebook, which last year renamed itself Meta, has been aggressively investing in its video products to compete for young users against ByteDance’s video-sharing app TikTok, which has become the world’s fastest-growing social media platform through its personalized delivery of short, engaging videos. Zuckerberg has said that investing in and figuring out how to make more money from its similar product, Reels, is a top priority for the company.

Tejas Dessai, a research analyst at financial services firm Global X ETFs said Facebook’s change is part of a larger larger shift in the social media market, where users are spending more time consuming bite-sized pieces of immersive content while turning to private messaging apps for one-on-one communication.

“I think Facebook is responding to what the consumer, what the user is asking for,” he said. More and more users are turning to Facebook and Instagram “to discover more information to understand more about the world.”

Despite the change, Dessai added that users will likely still turn to the company’s services to talk with their friends and family through direct messages or its messaging app WhatsApp.

During the final three months of last year, Facebook reported that it lost daily users for the first time in its 18-year history, sending its stock price plummeting. While the social media outlet’s user growth numbers held stable early this year, company executives have said they are focusing their energies on winning the attention of young people.

In contrast, TikTok has seen its U.S. user base soar to more than 110 million.

“For a long time now Facebook legacy has been on the decline,” Dessai said. “It was a do-or-die situation and Facebook wants to take a shot at keeping the platform running.”

Facebook’s strategy for figuring out which content users most want to see in their news feeds has been evolving for years. In the mid-2010s, the company was most focused on increasing the amount of time users spent on the site and often elevated clickbait articles and professionally produced videos into users’ feeds.

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In 2018, Facebook changed its recommendation algorithm to prioritize posts that encouraged engagement, which meant elevating content from friends and family but also divisive content that sparked intense emotional reactions, according to a trove of documents shared with regulators last year by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen.

Since then, the company has continued modifying the way users find new content. Earlier this year, it began offering users of its photo-sharing app Instagram two new ways to view content including by catching up on the most recent content from their favorite friends and creators or content from accounts they follow.

Instagram also recently updated its recommendation algorithm to prioritize original content over users who are simply sharing others’ posts at a time when the app is rife with videos from TikTok.

“If you create something from scratch you should get more credit than if you are resharing something that you found from someone else,” Instagram head Adam Mosseri said in a video announcing the change. “We’re going to do more to try and value original content more, particularly compared to reposted content.”

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