TikTok Is Rolling Coal and Facebook Needs Clean Air

July 5, 2022

TikTok’s popularity is surging, especially with the coveted youth market, while Facebook is moving the opposite direction. The threat has Facebook’s parent company Meta rethinking how it presents content and encourages users to connect. Perhaps “rethink” is not the correct word—it looks more like copy-and-paste. The Verge discusses upcoming changes and the motivations behind them in, “Facebook Is Changing its Algorithm to Take on TikTok, Leaked Memo Reveals.” Reporter Alex Heath cites Facebook head Tom Alison as he writes:

“Rather than prioritize posts from accounts people follow, Facebook’s main feed will, like TikTok, start heavily recommending posts regardless of where they come from. And years after Messenger and Facebook split up as separate apps, the two will be brought back together, mimicking TikTok’s messaging functionality. Combined with an increasing emphasis on Reels, the planned changes show how forcibly Meta is responding to the rise of TikTok, which has quickly become a legitimate challenger to its dominance in social media.”

What do you do when you are out of ideas and sucking the exhaust of the truck rolling coal in front of you? Imitate. Build your own rolling coal machine… just nothing too original. Best not to take any risks, not when one is already falling behind. The article notes a key piece of this mimicry lies in the discovery engine, which will no longer focus on content from friends but instead source recommendations from the wilds of both Facebook and Instagram. Just like TikTok. It will also make it easier to share and discuss videos through direct messages in an attempt to keep discussions from wandering onto other platforms. Again, as its nemesis does. The article describes:

“Here’s how the future Facebook app will work in practice: the main tab will become a mix of Stories and Reels at the top, followed by posts its discovery engine recommends from across both Facebook and Instagram. It’ll be a more visual, video-heavy experience with clearer prompts to direct message friends a post. To make messaging even more prominent, Facebook is working on placing a user’s Messenger inbox at the top right of the app, undoing the infamous decision to separate the two apps eight years ago.”

Some Facebook employees are not so sure about this swerve to follow in TikTok’s fumes, suggesting this course may take them too far from Facebook’s core mission. (No, not chasing ad dollars. Connecting friends and family, silly.) To which Alison says, basically, pshaw. Heath reminds us of several times Facebook has made changes to stay apace of rivals like Snapchat and points out Facebook has a successful history of “recognizing upstarts and ruthlessly copying their core features.” After all, who needs innovation when one is a master of imitation?

Cynthia Murrell, July 5, 2022

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One Response to “TikTok Is Rolling Coal and Facebook Needs Clean Air”

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