If you can believe it, Facebook once was considered “cool” in the Internet culture world.
But since News Feed’s inception, when it was populated with friend updates and images, a lot has changed. Facebook is now overrun with sites and companies competing for users’ attention. Teenagers and young adults in particular no longer feel as comfortable sharing their life there.
Following four years of attempting to improve the News Feed by making it more about friends and family, Facebook is now moving in the opposite way and focusing more on surfacing engaging material from users you don’t know. Being more like TikTok, which has won over the interest of the young demographic Facebook is trying so frantically to reclaim, is the main goal of this new “Discovery Engine” campaign.
In his first in-depth podcast interview since taking on the position in July 2021, Tom Alison, the head of the Facebook app at Meta, describes the outcome as a “updated vision for how the Facebook app is going to adapt to the next generation of people who are going to use it.”
In the fifth installment of the current season of Land of the Giants, the award-winning narrative audio series about the most significant digital businesses of our time, we investigate the past, present, and future of Facebook’s Feed. With the help of interviews with current and past executives, Recode and The Verge have collaborated this season to recount the tale of Facebook’s transformation into Meta over the course of seven episodes.
Nick Clegg, Meta’s senior policy officer, also makes comments in this episode regarding the implications of the firm having more influence over what billions of people view on a daily basis in their Facebook and Instagram feeds.
In a bizarre sense, Clegg stated, “We’re going to be doing what we have been accused of doing for a long time in the future.” If you pay attention to the narrative provided by Frances Haugen, a former employee of Facebook and whistleblower, it sounds like: “Oh my my, they’re basically spoon-feeding people hate speech.” Obviously, that was absurd. Because a large portion of the stuff individuals see on Facebook was influenced by both our systems and their own decisions—their friends, the groups they belong to, the content they engage with, etc.
But the new Discovery Engine approach is altering that. Through the use of AI, Meta will provide users with more material from strangers to make Facebook and Instagram more similar to TikTok. What will this effort signify for Facebook’s future and how we use it?
The first four episodes of Land of the Giants: The Facebook / Meta Disruption are available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and other podcast providers. You may listen to the fifth installment of the series below.