Facebook is Going Crazy on Algorithms over Imitating TikTok to the T

Facebook

Facebook

Here’s how Facebook Transforms Into TikTok, a new feeds tab feature replaces the algorithm

Have you recently checked your Facebook News Feed? Otherwise, you’d be forgiven and in good company. The experience is crammed with photos from vaguely familiar acquaintances as well as incongruous sponsored and suggested posts. It’s shuffled and served by algorithms linked to a slew of societal ills, according to Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen. A new update will only muddy that experience, even more, hastening Facebook’s transition into something more akin to TikTok. Facebook’s new Home tab, which will be the default experience in the coming weeks, will bombard you with videos and posts from strangers (along with accounts you follow) that ranking algorithms have determined you’ll engage with. In other words, a more TikTok-like experience, as seen to some extent on Instagram, which underwent a similar transition this spring.

However, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced this morning that the Facebook app will also include a new Feeds tab, which will display the most recent posts from friends, groups, and Pages you follow. On the desktop, you could access a reverse-chronological view by clicking Most Recent in the left-hand panel, or by going to Menu and then Recent & Favorites in the app. However, putting it front and center, keeping it one tap away, and giving it a proper name all mark a shift in how Facebook presents itself to a world that is increasingly looking elsewhere. One of the most frequently requested features for Facebook is the ability to ensure that people do not miss their friends’ posts. The Feeds tab is part of a larger effort to reclaim algorithm-free zones on social media. In 2018, Twitter reintroduced the radical concept of displaying tweets in the order they were sent. In March, Instagram introduced similarly chronological Following and Favorites views, along with more suggested posts in the main feed.

Those longing for simpler times may find that their newly sequential Feeds tab doesn’t provide much sustenance. My experience using chronological Facebook for two weeks this spring only confirmed how few people I know still post there regularly. The brands are thriving, but is that who you want to spend more time with? Of course, your mileage will vary depending on how active your social circle is on Facebook these days, as well as how many media outlets you follow. Fortunately, just like on Instagram, you can add “Favorites” to your Feeds tab, highlighting the people and Pages whose updates you want to see. It’s unclear whether they’ll post anything at all, but you won’t have to scroll as far to find them when they do. While there are still ads in Feeds, there are no “Suggested for you” posts.

Meanwhile, the default Facebook experience will present you with more random content than ever before. The Feeds tab exists primarily to free up space on the Home tab for algorithmic enticements. This system considers thousands of signals to help cut through the clutter and rank content in the order we believe you will find most valuable, the company wrote in a press release announcing the changes today. In this ranked experience, we’re investing in AI to best serve recommended content. Facebook claims you’ll still see people you know in the Home tab, but it appears designed to prioritize the chance encounters that drive so much of TikTok’s virality. Instagram is also likely to be useful here: The app’s main view has become clogged with suggested Reels and posts. It’s engagement through the clutter, with Following and Favorites for when you need a Marie Kondo moment.

However, that is not far from where the News Feed is now. While you won’t be able to make Feeds your default view, you will be able to pin it to the app’s shortcut bar at the bottom (iOS) or top (Android) when it launches globally this week. It may not encourage you to use Facebook more frequently, but it should make the experience more enjoyable when you do.