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Facebook doubles down on algorithms in the main feed

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Facebook’s almighty News Feed is getting split in two… kind of. Today, it’s announcing two feeds that will now be found in its iOS and Android apps. Home is the new name for the tab you see when you first open the app and is designed for algorithm-based discovery with Reels, Stories, and other personalized content. Then there’s an entirely new Feeds tab, which contains recent posts from friends, groups, Facebook Pages, and favorites, with no “Suggested For You” posts in sight.

The two tabs will be accessible from both the iOS and Android versions of the Facebook app, where they will start to appear in the shortcut bar today. Meta’s press release says the contents of this bar are designed to change based on which tabs users spend the most time in, but tabs can be pinned to ensure their positions don’t change. The company expects the updates to be rolled out globally over the coming week.

The Feeds tab shows recent posts from pages you follow.
Image: Meta

“One of the most requested features for Facebook is to make sure people don’t miss friends’ posts,” Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post announcing the changes. “So today we’re launching a Feeds tab where you can see posts from your friends, groups, Pages and more separately in chronological order. The app will still open to a personalized feed on the Home tab, where our discovery engine will recommend the content we think you’ll care most about. But the Feeds tab will give you a way to customize and control your experience further.”

Splitting the feed like this appears to be an attempt to balance Meta’s desire for Facebook to become more like TikTok — which recommends content from across its platform based on what its algorithms think you might be interested in — and its historical approach of focusing on the accounts and pages that people actually follow. But making the newly renamed Home feed the default shows where Meta’s priorities for Facebook lie, and Meta says that the feed is set to become “more of a discovery engine” going forward.

It’s important to note that the Home tab will still show posts from friends and family, but they’ll be surrounded by recommendations chosen by a machine learning ranking system. There’ll also still be ads in the Feed tab. So it sounds like there’ll still be some overlap between the two.

The move shows off just how much Facebook’s core News Feed has changed over the years as it’s had to respond to emerging trends from other social media players. And, in 2022, the major threat is TikTok. Meta’s attempt to more or less directly clone the social media platform with Lasso shut down after just 18 months, and the company’s focus has subsequently shifted to Instagram’s Reels to capitalize on the popularity of the short-form video format.

But the danger from TikTok has not abated. Facebook, the company’s core social media platform, actually lost daily users for the first time in the last quarter of 2021, and although the platform returned to growth in the first quarter of this year, it’s now growing slower than ever as TikTok eats into the time spent on both it and Instagram. With today’s changes, Facebook is paving the way for its embrace of algorithmically recommended feeds more than ever.

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