The Verge reports that back in late April, Facebook employees received a new memo in their inbox. The sender was none other than the Meta executive in charge of Facebook, Tom Alison, and he had the following important message:
While Facebook today primarily shows you content from your friends or pages you “follow”, TikTok’s video stream is to a greater extent based on topics you or others you have shown interest in in the past. This provides a more engaging video stream, where you are constantly discovering something new and being introduced to topics that are related to those you already like and follow.
In the leaked note, the Facebook employees are given a number of guidelines for the future from the management:
Rather than prioritizing posts and news from accounts you follow, Facebook’s news feed should to a much greater extent introduce you to popular content regardless of where it comes from, without you having followed the creators. To achieve this, Facebook will develop a so-called “Discovery Engine”, which seems to be their answer to the TikTok algorithm that stitches together interesting content for their users. Part of the power of the TikTok algorithm also lies in the fact that it shows content to “everyone” who may be interested, so that good content has the potential to go viral even if it comes from an account without many followers.
In reality, the “new” Facebook front page will become filled with a mix of “Stories” and short “Reels” videos taken from Instagram at the top, before the “Discovery Engine” feeds you other tailored content. It’ll be a more visual, video-heavy experience with clear prompts to direct message friends a post you like.
Additionally, Facebook and the messaging service Messenger will be merged again, and it will be much easier to jump straight to the message box from the Facebook feed, mimicking TikTok’s messenger functionality.
Facebook’s goal is to reverse its stagnant user growth and fight back at TikTok’s popularity. Last quarter, it was reported that the service had lost users for the first time in history. Meta especially wants to bring back young users who have put their “facebooking” on pause. The average age of Facebook users is steadily increasing.
The Verge refers to the analysis company Sensor Flow, which estimates that Tiktok’s app has been downloaded an incredible 3.6 billion times. Last year, TikTok’s downloads were 20 percent higher than Facebook’s and Instagram’s. Even more frightening for Meta, Sensor Flow says that during the first three months of this year, iPhone users spent 78 percent more time on TikTok than on Facebook.