Facebook and Instagram are changing their model: why you will see your friends’ posts less

Mark Zuckeberg is changing paradigm. The founder of the most popular social network on the planet announced in an interview to the American media CNBC that Facebook and Instagram would soon break away from their iconic social platform features aimed at connecting users with loved ones. In parallel with his bet on the future of the metaverse, the billionaire now intends favor content suggested by artificial intelligence in order to increase the time spent by users on its applications. A 90 degree turn dictated by the insolent success of the Chinese application TikTok and its famous recommendation algorithm which is attracting more and more young users to the detriment of the services of the Facebook galaxy.

“We are moving from a system where most of the content you see on Facebook and Instagram comes from your friends or the people you follow to a model where more and more content is the result of artificial intelligence recommendations. “, explains Mark Zuckerberg. “And as the algorithm recommendations improve, you have access, not just to the content of the people you follow, but to the whole universe of content that exists,” he added.

Concretely, instead of prioritizing posts from the accounts you follow, the main feeds of Facebook and Instagram will increasingly highlight publications recommended for youwhich they believe will appeal to you, regardless of who uploaded them.

Already the case on Instagram

This change is already noticeable on Instagram where users have started seeing more posts from accounts they don’t follow, the famous “Suggested Reels”. This short and vertical video format, an assumed clone of TikTok, was introduced in 2020 to play on the flowerbeds of the Chinese application. Facebook now intends to place them at the heart of the Instagram experience to catch up on its rival, even if it means upsetting the habits of its users, whose feeds are less and less open to publications from their relatives, and from the creators of content, which see the visibility of their publications (traditional photos and videos) plummeting against the Reels.

For Mark Zuckerberg, competition from TikTok is a major problem. The application owned by the Chinese media ByteDance passed the milestone of one billion users last fall. It particularly appeals to young people and is very effective in capturing the attention of users on their smartphone thanks to its recommendation algorithm which guides them in the themes it deems most likely to retain them on the application. According the firm App Annie, French users spent twice as much time on average on TikTok as on Instagram in 2020. In the United States, the Chinese application is even three times more addictive. A key aspect for Facebook, whose revenues largely depend on the exposure of its users to advertisements paid for by advertisers.

Opaque algorithms and sources of drift

However, the functioning of these artificial intelligences remains very opaque. TikTok has never revealed the recipe for its recommendation algorithm. The Chinese group only leaked a few elements taken into account when analyzing the tastes of the user, such as his language, his location, his subscriptions, his shares or his interactions with other users. A Wall Street Journal survey also showed that one of the most determining criteria was the time spent on a video. The platform’s algorithms then push users towards increasingly specialized content, filter bubbles in line with the videos viewed, to personalize their experience and increase their time spent on the application.

This system also inevitably leads to abuses. TikTok’s algorithm has been implicated in numerous cases of challenges leading young people to adopt dangerous behaviors. He is also accused of reducing the visibility of certain minorities, by downgrading videos that do not generate many views, of promoting disinformation, in the context of the war in Ukraine in particular, or even of promoting conspiracy theories. The refocusing of Facebook and Instagram around such a model should reinforce Europe in its desire to force the major platforms to make their algorithms more transparent, mainly via the Digital Services Act voted at the start of the year.

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Facebook and Instagram are changing their model: why you will see your friends’ posts less


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