New Facebook and Instagram Updates Mimic TikTok’s Model

Meta Platforms is adjusting Facebook’s algorithms to offer more discovery and personalization features, according to the company. Users will now automatically land on a Home tab instead of the old News Feed. A revamped Feed will emphasize videos, photos and algorithmically curated posts. While observers have been quick to label the change yet another attempt to chase TikTok’s addictive, influencer-driven feed, Meta assures users this doesn’t mean goodbye to friends and family. “You can curate a Favorites list of the friends and Pages you care about most and filter their content in this new tab,” the company says.

“One of the most requested features for Facebook is to make sure people don’t miss friends’ posts. So today we’re launching a Feeds tab where you can see posts from your friends, groups, Pages and more separately in chronological order,” Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post that includes examples of the new look.

The app will now open “to a personalized feed on the Home tab, where our discovery engine will recommend the content we think you’ll care most about,” Zuckerberg explained, adding that it is the Feeds tab that “will give you a way to customize and control your experience further.”

Business Insider stresses the distinction between the auto-populated Home streams and the more personalized Feed, writing that “if you aren’t getting your fill of endlessly scrolling through viral videos from strangers on TikTok, Facebook has you covered. If you want to more directly see what your friends or followers are up to, you’ll have to go to another tab called ‘Feeds,’ which won’t be the default home screen.”

The new main screen will be a “discovery engine” highlighting “fresh, entertaining content,” is how Meta couches it in a news announcement.

Instagram is also going through changes, with public videos of less than than 15 minutes now automatically characterized as Reels and “eligible to be recommended.” TechCrunch is critical of Instagram’s “intention to move away from its original model of photo sharing among friends, to the one pioneered by TikTok: showing as much algorithmically targeted video content as possible and juicing engagement wherever practical.”

Chief on the list of complaints: Reels are no longer muted by default and toggled to sound with a tap, making for awkward public scrolling. Also objectionable: “a switch from the classic infinite scroll to an item-by-item flipping style, also highly reminiscent of TikTok.

Facebook is 18 this year, and The New York Times writes that for most of the social network’s history, “its executives have executed a tried-and-true playbook: Mimic the success of others.” In this case, that means acting “more like TikTok,” owned by China’s ByteDance, by relying more on recommendations and viral content and less on content friends or connections find engaging.

Related:
Instagram Leader: We’re Gonna Keep Adding More Video, The Verge, 7/26/22
The Kardashians Hate the New Instagram, The Verge, 7/25/22
Instagram, Facing Criticism from Kylie Jenner and Others, Tries Explaining Itself, The New York Times, 7/26/22
‘Make Instagram Instagram Again’: The App’s Evolution Is Causing Users to Question Its Future, The Wall Street Journal, 7/27/22
Instagram Rolls Back Some Product Changes After User Backlash, The New York Times, 7/28/22
Advertisers Are Struggling with Instagram’s TikTok Clone, Reels, Bloomberg, 7/28/22