Facebook was once, believe it or not, cool.
But a lot has changed since the early days of News Feed, when it was filled with status updates and photos from friends. Facebook has become overcrowded with brands and pages competing for eyeballs. It has become a place where people, especially teenagers and young adults, are not so comfortable sharing their lives.
Now, after trying for the past four years to improve the news feed by making it more about friends and family, Facebook is going the other way: toward showing more entertaining content from people you don’t know. This new “Discovery Engine” push is all about becoming more like TikTok, which has captured the attention of the young generation of Facebook so desperate to win back.
The result is an “updated vision of how the Facebook app will respond to the next generation of people who will use it,” said Tom Alison, the head of Facebook app at Meta, in what was his first in-depth podcast interview. since he took on the role in July 2021.
We examine the past, present and future of Facebook’s Feed for our fifth episode of the new season of Land of the Giants, Vox Media Podcast Network’s award-winning narrative podcast series about the most influential technology companies of our time. This season, recode and The edge have teamed up in seven episodes to tell the story of Facebook’s journey to become Meta, featuring interviews with current and former executives.
This episode also features commentary from Nick Clegg, Meta’s top policy officer, about the implications of the company gaining more control over what billions of users see every day in their Facebook and Instagram feeds.
“In a strange way, we’ll be doing what we’ve been doing for a long time in the future,” Clegg said. “If you listen to the [former Facebook employee and whistleblower] Frances Haugen kind of story… it’s, ‘oh my god, they just spoon-feed people hate speech…’ Of course it was bullshit… Because the vast majority of the content people saw on Facebook was naturally driven , through our systems, but also through their own choices, who their friends are, what groups they belong to, what content they interact with, and so on.”
But that is about to change with the new Discovery Engine strategy. To make Facebook and Instagram more like TikTok, Meta will offer users more content from strangers using AI. What does this push mean for the future of Facebook and how we use it?
Listen to the fifth episode of Land of the Giants: The Facebook/Meta Disruption below, and watch the first four episodes on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotifyor wherever you get your podcasts from.