February 7, 2023

If you already have strong feelings about your Instagram feed showing more and more roles from accounts you don’t follow, just wait until next year.

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company will more than double the amount of content from recommended accounts people see while using Instagram and Facebook by the end of 2023. He said such recommendations currently make up about 15 percent of content on Facebook, and that percentage is already higher on Instagram.

The push, which Zuckerberg calls building the “Discovery Engine,” is a radical departure from Facebook and Instagram’s historical focus on displaying posts from a user’s social chart, or friends list. The shift aims to compete with TikTok’s heavy use of AI to display videos no matter where they come from. That approach has quickly made TikTok one of the most widely used apps in the world and has spawned a whole new creative economy.

During Meta’s second-quarter earnings call on Wednesday, Zuckerberg explained that if “Al finds additional content that people find interesting, the engagement and quality of our feeds increase.” He said Meta will use AI to recommend any content people share publicly on its service, such as links or photos.

“In that sense, I think what we’re doing is going to be pretty unique,” he said, referring to TikTok’s particular focus on short videos. “I don’t think people will want to limit themselves to one format.”

Facebook’s last major change in the way it recommends content was in 2018, when Zuckerberg announced a strategy aimed at encouraging “meaningful social interactions” (MSI) between friends in the news feed. When it was introduced, Zuckerberg predicted it would lead to a reduction in time spent on the social network, but make users feel better.

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“The research shows that when we use social media to connect with people we care about, it can be good for our well-being,” he said then. “On the other hand, passively reading articles or watching videos — even if they’re entertaining or informative — might not be so good.”

With Meta’s business slowing down and Facebook’s user base aging, Zuckerberg seems to have been throwing away the way the feed was designed for the past four years. On Wednesday, he said people were no longer fully sharing feeds and were instead communicating via private messages.

“A social trend we’re seeing is that instead of people just interacting in comments in feeds, most people find interesting content in their feeds and then send that content to friends and interact there.”