We actually got a pretty good answer to that question during F8 this week, though it could be hard to discern against the din of other product announcements. But Facebook does have a plan for your real friends on Facebook — and the plan is unfolding in Messenger.
Ben Thompson had a characteristically sharp take on the news in his (subscriber-only) daily update today. He argues that Facebook was forced to take this strategy because Snapchat and Instagram eroded the popularity of the News Feed, and that last year’s move to promote “meaningful posts” at the expense of big publishers only made it worse.
That, then, led to this new strategy: let Facebook be Facebook — that is, most people’s portal to the Internet — with a focus on Groups to deepen Facebook’s network moat. Give up on trying to refashion a service known for a lack of privacy into a destination for friends and family. Meanwhile, rebuild Messenger into a social network in its own right, complete with its own feed (that second tab) and network (albeit a subset of your Facebook network). And oh-by-the-way, frame it as an embrace of privacy while changing nothing about the core Facebook experience and ad machine.
Messenger took up an outsized portion of yesterday’s keynote. (Or maybe not — it does have 1.3 billion users.) After a redesign last year succeeded in simplifying it from the overstuffed junk drawer it had become, Facebook said it would make Messenger the fastest-loading product of its kind, with an app size of fewer than 30 megabytes. The company announced plans to bring it to the desktop to promote heavier usage. And it also announced that second tab Thompson mentions — a place to see your friends’ ephemeral stories, their current statuses (represented by emoji), and perhaps eventually even stories they’ve added to the News Feed.
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