Facebook Tests Bringing Messaging Back to Main App in Effort to Bolster Social Discovery.

Facebook is testing the integration of messaging capabilities back to its flagship app, potentially reversing a move it made nearly a decade ago to split off messaging features to a separate app.

The social media behemoth is testing the feature in order to make it easier for users to share content and initiate conversations with their friends directly from the main app. The move comes as Facebook attempts to compete with TikTok as a discovery engine and strengthen its position as a platform for discovering and discussing new content. The test is viewed as the start of a larger shift for the platform, which aims to maintain its growth and relevance over the next two decades.

The Transition of Facebook to a Discovery Engine

In an interview with CNN, Facebook CEO Tom Alison stated that the company’s redesign of its home feed and AI-powered content recommendations were intended to keep users engaged longer and compete more effectively with TikTok. Facebook’s new strategy seeks to position the company as a discovery engine, assisting users in connecting with people they know, want to know, or should know. The goal is to be known for social discovery rather than simply connecting friends and family, a strategy announced by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg last year in response to concerns about a stagnant and aging user base. According to Alison, the strategy is only the beginning of a larger shift for the platform.

Messaging Integration Testing

Facebook is testing the integration of messaging capabilities back into its main app as part of its transition to a discovery engine. The change is intended to make it easier for users to share content and initiate conversations with their friends without using the Messenger app. According to Alison, Facebook wants to differentiate itself from TikTok by offering a deeper social dimension, such as starting a conversation with friends from content. Facebook is also considering bringing back in-app texting capabilities to its main app, which it removed in 2016 in order to push users to Messenger for texting. The feature is currently being tested with a small group of users, with plans to expand the test in the near future.

Facebook’s Conflict with TikTok

TikTok, which is known for its short-form vertical videos, is Facebook’s main competitor. Facebook is attempting to catch up by expanding its short-form vertical video platform, Reels, and using artificial intelligence to recommend content to users that extends beyond Reels. According to Alison, Facebook has an advantage over TikTok because of its roots in connecting people with their networks, allowing creators to create groups of fans and hold conversations outside of the content they share on Instagram and TikTok. Facebook is also using AI to find public group content based on user interests, displaying highly relevant content from public groups in their feed without the need for users to search or rely on word of mouth to find a group.

Efficiency Year

Facebook is also dealing with its “year of efficiency,” an effort to cut costs following a broader reckoning in the tech industry and investor skepticism about its costly plan to center its business model around the metaverse, a future version of the internet. Alison stated that the company is embracing prioritization and putting more effort into some of its larger bets, such as AI, as well as doing fewer things better and faster. The move comes after the platform reported last month that it had 2 billion daily active users in the December quarter, indicating that its audience has resumed growing.

Featured image: Facebook, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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