Mark Zuckerberg has said for years that Facebook's goal is to connect people. But Meta's increasing emphasis on video isn't highlighting clips from users' friends and family: It's using AI to surface videos from all over Facebook and Instagram.
Reels now make up about 20% of the time people spend on Instagram, and videos overall comprise about half of the time people spend on Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg said during the company's first-quarter earnings call yesterday. But people aren't necessarily engaging with videos posted by the users they follow: AI is driving the increase in video views. Zuckerberg said he wants AI to work as a recommendation system for short-form video and eventually as a way for people to find the "most interesting" content on Meta's platforms.
"Social content from friends and people and businesses you follow will continue being a lot of the most valuable, engaging and differentiated content for our services, but now also being able to accurately recommend content from the whole universe that you don't follow directly, unlocks a large amount of interesting and useful videos and posts that you might have otherwise missed," Zuckerberg said.
Meta has been pushing video on Instagram and Facebook users for some time as it tries to compete with TikTok, YouTube and others. Instagram removed the "recent" tab from its hashtag page in an effort to show more Reels, and the platform even tweaked its algorithm to show fewer videos stamped with the TikTok logo. Reels recently rolled out globally on Facebook, too. Zuckerberg said he wants Reels to become a huge part of the company's discovery engine goals.
It's been clear for some time now that Facebook and Instagram need to deprioritize connecting friends to keep up with platforms like TikTok. They can't just be the apps where users go to see photos of their friends' pets or babies, because that's not as cool or engaging as helping users keep up with the most dominant internet trend of the day. That's where AI comes into play.
Meta CFO Dave Wehner said during the earnings call that competitors like TikTok "have strong offers" but that Meta is "pleased with what we've got with Reels and the efforts that we're making to grow that important product."