What has Facebook done now?


This is an edition of Atlantic A daily newsletter that guides you through the biggest stories of the day, helps you discover new ideas and recommends the best in culture. Register here.

Would you rather watch a video of a stranger saving a sloth, or read your cousin’s take on the January 6 hearings? Meta bets on the first.

But first, here are three new stories from Atlantic.

Status update

If you’ve recently logged into Facebook, as nearly 2 billion people around the world do every day, you might have noticed something new in your feed: more strangers. Last week, the social media giant introduced two different new versions of your Facebook feed. While the familiar main page, formerly known as News Feed, was once where family, friends and other accounts you follow had long shared humble brags, dodgy headlines and slices of Everyday Life, the new homepage combines these things with posts from strangers that it suggests based on your past activity on Facebook. When I logged in last week, that meant a video of a man saving a sloth from the road and a screenshot of a Twitter meme about introverts.

A new, separate tab, Feeds, will show you only the people you’ve chosen to follow. But with Home, Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, is clearly directing its users towards an experience that emphasizes posts from pages and people you don’t know: viral content selected by an algorithm for maximum entertainment value and voiceless viewing. time. In other words, Facebook now wants to be TikTok.

TikTok is a short-form video platform that became famous for viral dances performed by fresh-faced tweens and teens whose queen was Charli D’Amelio. (Some of that DNA comes from Musical.ly, a lip-syncing app that TikTok gobbled up in 2018.) But it really exploded at the start of the pandemic, when much of life moved online. . Last fall, the app hit 1 billion active users. An estimated 25% of TikTok users in the United States are between the ages of 10 and 19, a demographic that Meta hopes to win back.

Now, TikTok is much more than a viral dance factory. TikTok generates many of the most inescapable online memes, trends and debates. (If you’ve recently heard of Coastal Grandmas or Pink Sauce, you have TikTok to thank, or maybe blame.) And if a meme doesn’t originate from TikTok, it usually ends up there, graduating from Twitter or Reddit to achieve true ubiquity. TikTok is now the internet’s closest thing to a public square, a place where every major news, fashion trend and cultural moment is filtered and repackaged into a short video.

Many young people turn to TikTok and Instagram instead of Google to search for information such as where to have lunch; increasingly, they rely on TikTok, Instagram or YouTube for news, as opposed to traditional outlets. Meanwhile, Facebook’s total user base dipped for the first time at the end of 2021. In October, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced big plans to launch the metaverse and take social media to the next level. to virtual reality, eventually conceding that the technology needed to do so won’t be mainstream for another five to ten years. Meta has turned to a familiar tactic to regain relevance in the meantime: copying the traits of his contemporaries. (Instagram Stories were the company’s successful response to Snapchat; Reels, a less successful retort to TikTok.)

The Home stream is an ambitious, if not desperate, attempt to recreate TikTok’s special sauce (not the pink kind). The For You page, TikTok’s main portal, pulls videos from anywhere and everywhere; Over time, the algorithm that powers it adapts content based on how you watch and share each type of clip.

When Instagram recently experimented with new TikTok-like features, stars on the platform like Kim Kardashian, Kylie Jenner and Chrissy Teigen shouted in protest, and the platform manager announced last week that it would reduce the number of suggested posts and remove a new full-screen version as Instagram “works to improve” its algorithm. At the same time, Facebook has cut funding for US news publishers, essentially backing away from encouraging sharing of anything substantial on the app.

Nobody famous fusses about Facebook’s new changes, but Facebook has never been about famous people anyway, not even those who are momentarily famous thanks to a viral video. Which is probably not a good sign for a company that prioritizes memes over status updates. Especially when the hot new thing is an app, BeReal, all about friends sharing “authentic” photos once a day. Again, Meta is already testing its own version of that too. In case.


Today’s news
  1. In order to alleviate the global food crisis, a ship carrying Ukrainian grain left the port of Odessa for the first time since the Russian invasion.
  2. Nancy Pelosi arrived in Singapore on Monday to kick off her visit to Asia. Administration officials say they expect the trip to include a stopover in Taiwan, which China said would provoke a response.
  3. Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson, who has been accused by a number of women of sexual assault or misconduct, has been suspended for six games without pay for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy.


Evening reading

What made Bill Russell a hero

By Jemele Hill

Few people can bring down Charles Barkley, the former NBA MVP and legendary outspoken host. But NBA icon Bill Russell, who died Sunday at the age of 88, once called Barkley and did just that.

“He called me. ‘Charles Barkley, this is Bill Russell.’ I said, ‘Oh, Mr. Russell,’ Barkley told me. “He said, ‘I need you to shut the fuck up. ‘ I said, ‘Okay.’

Read the article completely.

More Atlantic

cultural break
Beyoncé sings into a mic as she lies on a metal horse in the cover of
(Carlijn Jacobs/Parkwood Entertainment)

Lily. Deacon King Kongby James McBride, a novel so propulsive and fun it’s almost warm to the touch.

Look. the original buffy the vampire slayer film (available for rental on several platforms) is a pre-cluelessSkittles-tinged ode to the Californian ditz, but also so much more.

Listen. by Beyoncé Renaissance is a big gay mess. Hell yes, writes our review.

Play our daily crosswords.


Thanks for letting me jump on the Daily today! If that didn’t make you curious about TikTok, maybe this: TikTok’s wonderfully woody hit “Stick Season,” by Noah Kahan. The artist first released a snippet of the song in October 2020, but it only took off last month when users started sharing videos of their own covers. The song burst onto the Spotify USA chart on July 20, and now you can catch Kahan on tour, if dates in your city haven’t sold out.


Isabel Fattal contributed to this newsletter.


About Author

Comments are closed.