Instagram introduced TikTok-inspired Reels in 2020, and the company has been slowly adding features to increase its discoverability. The short video format was also rolled out on the Facebook app in the US in September 2021 and globally in February 2022. It appears that the Meta-owned Facebook wants to push out more features and tweak its algorithms to rival TikTok, which remains a popular app globally, though banned in India. TikTok was also the most downloaded as well as the highest-grossing app in Q1 2022 (January to March), as per SensorTower data.
According to a leaked memo published by The Verge, Facebook app head Tom Alison wants the platform to incorporate a “Discovery Engine” to offer more personalised short video recommendations similar to TikTok’s “For You” feed. The leaked memo indicates that the Reels recommendations would also come from “unconnected” content, meaning users will see different genres of short videos to stay engaged.
The company is also planning to push out content to help users with “trending content and original creators” by investing heavily in a ‘Modern Recommendation Systems’ initiative with partners across the company. The memo claims that Facebook is planning to bring back Messenger on the app as the company believes there’s a shift in how people share content at present.
It remains unclear how the company will implement these updates, given Facebook’s reputation for prioritising ‘viral content’. Meta platforms like Facebook and Instagram faced heat in 2020 for not effectively tackling COVID-related misinformation. The company did (and continues) to ban content on anti-vaccine posts last year, but the work isn’t finished. The company again faced massive flak from users and critics following the US Capitol riots in January 2021.
The memo by Alison highlights, “The reason the priorities above are highlighted is that these efforts represent the near-term, high-lift investments that we must accelerate to unlock foundational changes to how people will use Facebook over the next few years. They also represent some of the biggest – but also most challenging – opportunities for us to succeed with Young Adults”.
It will be interesting to see how Meta will upgrade its platforms as it did rival Snapchat quite successfully after introducing Stories on Facebook and Instagram – and even WhatsApp. Instagram Reels in India continues to get new features, but most are inspired by TikTok, like Duets.
Facebook is planning to bring back Messenger on the app as the company believes there’s a shift in how people share content at present.