Facebook is testing a rollback of in-app messaging features as it competes with TikTok
New York (CNN) Nearly a decade after Facebook angered some users by stripping messaging features from its flagship social networking app and forcing people to download a separate app to chat with friends, the company is now testing a reversal of the move.
In an interview with CNN, Facebook CEO Tom Alison said the platform is testing bringing messaging capabilities back into the Facebook app, making it easier for users to share content without having to use the Messenger app. In the test, Facebook wants to fight back against TikTok’s competition by strengthening its position as a platform for discovering and discussing new content.
“We believe that content doesn’t just consume you, it starts a conversation and starts a thread with your friends or something you can share with people who share the same interests,” Alison said. “I think what sets Facebook and Instagram apart from TikTok and others is just the depth of having a conversation with your friends from that content and having that social dimension.”
The move, which Alison announced in a blog post on Tuesday, comes after Facebook overhauled its strategy last year due to a stagnant and aging user base. The platform is no longer just about connecting friends and family. Instead, founder Mark Zuckerberg wanted Facebook to be a “discovery engine.”
Facebook has redesigned its home feed to show more entertaining posts from across the platform with AI-powered content recommendations, instead of only showing posts specifically from those in users’ networks. (The desire for the latter was fulfilled by a new, separate page.) The goal was clear: to engage users for a longer period of time and to help the platform better compete with TikTok and its continuous recommended content.
Nine months later, that switch started to pay off, Alison told CNN. The platform reported last month that it had reached 2 billion daily active users in the December quarter.
“A lot of the narrative leading up to this was that Facebook was in decline or that Facebook’s best days were behind it,” Alison said, “and part of what we’re trying to achieve with this milestone was to say, ‘hey, look.’ , that’s actually not true.”
Over the years, there has been no shortage of rumors about Facebook’s demise, from the admission of a “teenage problem” a decade ago to the recent PR debacle of the social network and its parent company, Meta. The rapid rise of TikTok, and even the success of Facebook’s sister service, Instagram, has taken the shine off Zuckerberg’s aging social network, which was started in a dorm room nearly 20 years ago. But for now, his audience has grown again.
Alison, who has been running the Facebook app since July 2021, said the introduction of the “discovery engine” strategy is just the beginning of a larger change for the platform as Facebook works to pave the way for continued growth and relevance. over the next two decades.
“For the last almost 20 years … we’ve really been known for friends and family, but for the next 20 years what we’re really going to be about is social discovery,” he said. “It’s going to be about helping you connect with the people you know, the people you want to know and the people you need to know.”
While Facebook and Instagram are struggling to keep up with TikTok, including through copycat features like Reels, Alison argues that Facebook’s take on TikTok is because of its roots in helping people connect with their network.
For some creators, for example, Facebook has become a place to create fan groups and engage in conversations beyond the content shared on Instagram and TikTok, Alison said. “I think it helps them get closer to their fans on Facebook in a way that they can’t on other platforms.”
As Facebook plans to evolve, it must contend with what Zuckerberg has called the company’s “year of efficiency,” an effort to cut costs after a broader reckoning in the tech industry and investor skepticism that it is building its business model around the enterprise model. he calls the future version of the Internet the metaverse.
“One of the things we’re embracing in the Year of Efficiency is prioritizing, and frankly, we’re just putting more effort into some of our bigger bets,” Alison said. The platform has shut down some smaller efforts over the past year, such as its newsletter subscription service Bulletin, to invest in key areas such as artificial intelligence. “That’s a big part of the culture we instill at Meta, how do we do fewer things better? And how do we do them sometimes faster? Efficiency isn’t just about cost savings.”