For most of Facebook’s history, its executives followed a tried and true playbook: emulate the success of others.
On Thursday, the company, dubbed Meta, continued that tactic with an update to its main Facebook app that will change how users view the service and position it as one of its biggest rivals.
Facebook users will soon open the app to a new Home tab that will reveal a feed of photos, looping videos and status updates from friends and family. The main tab will also display a variety of posts from people and pages not connected to the user’s network, labeled “suggested for you”.
This category is driven by Facebook’s algorithms, which think what someone might like to see based on thousands of individual information signals and a user’s Facebook browsing history. The so-called discovery engine behind these algorithms is powered by Facebook’s artificial intelligence technology.
In short, the Facebook app will act like TikTok, the Chinese-owned social media app. While Facebook has historically connected people to content created by their friends, video-based TikTok relies on algorithmic signals and viral content to show viewers highly engaging posts without relying on someone else’s network of friends or connections.
The change is the use of social applications initiated by Meta, which also includes Instagram. In recent months, as Mark Zuckerberg, Meta’s CEO, has promoted video products on Instagram and Facebook, the company has put in more suggested content to keep users engaged and returning to the apps regularly. On Instagram, the formula seems to be working, Mr. Zuckerberg said.
The Home tab follows a popular social media trend known as “discovery,” which relies heavily on algorithms and machine learning to better understand the types of content a user might like and delivers it without the effort of humans finding it. Facebook is investing heavily in this area, as are companies like Snap and Twitter.
TikTok’s focus on discovering and serving interesting content is a social media phenomenon. Founded less than a decade ago, TikTok has added hundreds of millions of users over the past few years. Young people spend more than 90 minutes a day watching TikTok, with some estimates even surpassing the time spent on the YouTube app.
This has put pressure on the Meta family of apps. Its executives are concerned about the share of young users migrating to TikTok and other up-and-coming social media apps.
To combat attrition, Facebook and Instagram executives have made product changes that follow in the footsteps of competitors. In 2020, Instagram introduced Reels, a short-form, looping video product almost identical to that produced by TikTok.
In Facebook’s app update, users should expect to see more short-form videos and Reels in the Home tab as the company improves algorithms and improves the discovery experience. Home content may also include photos or articles from pages and groups that the user is not already following.
Users can still choose to see content only from friends, family, or certain Pages — without seeing unrelated, suggested posts — by navigating to the new Feeds tab. In the Feeds tab, people can view content in categories such as posts from friends, posts from groups they belong to and Pages they subscribe to, or a stream of everything aggregated and posted in reverse chronological order.
Mr. Zuckerberg said people would still have control over what they saw in the app through the Feeds tab.
“One of the most requested features on Facebook is to make sure people don’t miss their friends’ posts,” he said in a Facebook post. “The app will still open to a personalized feed on the main tab, where our discovery engine will recommend the content we think you’ll be most interested in.” But the Channels tab gives you a way to customize and control your experience.”
The update to the Facebook app will roll out worldwide next week.