Facebook’s redesign marks the end of the era of social networks

Last week marked the end of the era of social networking, which began with the rise of Friendster in 2003 and shaped two decades of internet growth, and is now ending with Facebook rolling out a massive TikTok-like redesign.

The Big Picture: Under the social network model, which has been based on the rise of smartphones to shape digital experiences for billions of users, keeping up with your friends’ posts has been the hub for everything you might aim to do online.

Now he wants Facebook To shape your online life around the algorithmically categorized preferences of millions of strangers around the world.

  • This is how TikTok sorts the videos it shows to users, and this is how Facebook will now organize its home screen.
  • The dominant player in social media is transforming itself into a kind of digital mass media, where the reactions of hordes of anonymous users, processed by machine learning, choose your content.

Facebook and its competitors Call this the “discovery engine” because it reliably publishes recommendations for posts from everywhere that might catch your eye.

  • But it also looks a lot like a mutant TV with an infinite number of context-free channels flashing in and out of focus at high speed.
  • That seems to be what younger users prefer right now, which is where Facebook expects its business growth to lie, now that Apple’s new privacy rules and threats from regulators around the world have made the current ad targeting model unstable.

Between the lines: For nearly a decade after the 2008 financial crisis, social networks – led by Facebook, with Twitter playing an important secondary role – dominated Internet culture and its economy.

  • Their rise came with great hopes that they might unleash waves of democratic empowerment and the liberation of self-expression around the world.
  • But their main influence has been seen in the transformation of the media industry and the digital advertising business.

Facebook outperforms rival MySpace And it has outpaced competitors like Instagram and Snapchat because it has turned a simple “social blueprint” for human relationships into a money-making machine that helps businesses, especially small apparel, target cheap ads with uncanny accuracy.

  • Competitors have tried and failed to beat Facebook in the social networking game – most notably Google, with many forgotten efforts from Orkut to Google+.

Yes, but: With profits soaring and Facebook turning into the exclusive club of Big Tech giants along with Google, Apple, Microsoft and Amazon, so too have the problems.

  • The Facebook friends account and “like” buttons have turned human relationships into a competition of impersonal metrics.
  • Keeping up with the volume of posts has become a chore, which is why 2009 on Facebook’s News Feed has defaulted to my account sorting, not chronological.
  • This prompted many users, especially political organizations, to turn up the volume and try to manipulate the Facebook software.
  • Over time, critics have charged that this dynamic has become a driver of extremism, disinformation, hate speech and harassment.

be clever: The TikTok-style “discovery engine” model shares many of the same issues.

  • Posts are less rooted in the social network.
  • The larger the crowd, the higher the threshold for hearing speech.

From the note: With its changes rolling out – quickly to mobile apps, “later this year” for PC/browser users – Facebook will continue to provide old-school friend and family networks via a sub-tab. These posts will be arranged in chronological order, as some users have long desired.

  • The move also helps Facebook avoid allegations of screening bias and keeps the company ahead of regulators who threaten to restrict its algorithms.

But the era As social networking has become the primary experience for most of the internet users is moving behind us. This also applies to Twitter, the surviving Western competitor to Facebook as well.

  • Twitter has not found a reliable business model, opening the way for a takeover offer from Elon Musk. Whatever the outcome of the legal battle now underway, Twitter’s future is cloudy at best.

Our thought bubble: The leadership of Meta and Facebook now views the whole machine of the Facebook social network as an outdated process.

What’s Next: Messaging will continue to grow as a central channel for individual and small group communications.

  • Meta owns a large portion of that market as well, thanks to Facebook Messenger and its ownership of WhatsApp.
  • At the other end of the media spectrum, the “discovery engines” run by TikTok and Meta will exploit it with streaming services to capture billions of eyes around the world and sell that interest to advertisers.

All this leaves a void In the middle – the forum space, the formation of the ad hoc groups and small communities that first sparked excitement about the adoption of the Internet in the pre-Facebook era.

  • Facebook’s shutdown of its own social network may open up a new space for innovation in the field, as relative newcomers like Discord are already beginning to thrive.

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