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Head of Facebook App: "Building the Discovery Engine"
April 27, 2022
Building the Discovery Engine
In this note I want to introduce the concept of Facebook as a “discovery engine,” which is a helpful mental model to frame the current focus of our long-term strategy. It also helps contextualize our product priorities, which we’ll continue to evolve over time to emphasize our near-term focus areas.
I encourage you to read the entire note, but if you just want the TL:DR here it is:
Our vision is for Facebook to be a place where everyone can belong, though the power of community. We define our four durable strategic pillars to accomplish this by helping people:
Find, enjoy and create interesting content.
Strengthen their relationships.
Create communities - both big and small.
Realize economic opportunities.
While our strategy is designed to stand the test of time, our execution and focus must be responsive to the needs of the current moment. Today we see a shift towards social media products serving as “discovery engines.” We’re sharing an updated articulation of our near-term priorities that are aimed at strengthening the Facebook discovery engine. These are:
Make Reels successful.
Build world class recommendations technology.
Unlock messaging-based sharing.
Alongside our product priorities, we’ll continue to prioritize culture changes to support the “Trustworthy, People-Centric, and Unified” approach to product development that we announced in January of this year.
The Discovery Engine
As we discussed our strategy throughout Q1 with Mark, different leaders across Meta, and teams within Facebook, the word “discovery” came up over and over. Through these conversations, the term “discovery engine” emerged as a helpful way to capture the evolution of modern social media products and frame our work to advance our strategy in 2022.
Building products that facilitate discovery has been part of Facebook’s DNA for a long time. Giving people a voice is one of our core principles, and throughout our history we’ve built tools to support communication and personal expression to audiences both large and small. Serendipitous discovery has also been a mainstay of why people use Facebook. While people frequently open our app to connect with friends, family and communities, they also often open our app without an explicit intention. This use case and the motivation behind it was eloquently captured in our 2018/2019 research around “socially powered possibility.”
Historically, Facebook has taken an entity-centric approach to discovery. We help you connect with the friends, groups, and pages you care about most. Then updates from those connections are ranked in Feed. Unconnected content in Feed was surfaced via reshares from the friends, groups, and pages you follow, but unconnected recommendations weren’t historically a core part of the Feed experience. However we did invest heavily in unconnected content discovery on adjacent surfaces, i.e. through search queries or recommendations-first products like Watch, News, and Marketplace.
Today this is changing. Social media products - including our own - are delivering value by investing more in discovery engines that help people find and enjoy interesting content regardless of whether it was produced by someone you’re connected to or not. We see this both in research as well as in the growth of products like Reels, Watch, and In-Feed Recommendations (IFR).
As we lean into public content and recommendations and evolve our discovery engine, a natural question to ask is whether this will dilute our focus on connecting people. Facebook is - and will continue to be - a product known for creating and strengthening connections. We state this directly in our strategy through our intention to help people strengthen relationships, as well as create communities - both big and small. If executed well, investing in our discovery engine will enhance people’s ability to connect with friends, pages, and communities, and facilitate new connections. Shared interests and identity are often the foundation for friendship and community, and sharing and discussing interesting content you discover on Facebook with your friends and communities can strengthen those bonds - this has come up again and again in our research on the “community journey” toward belonging. That’s why our job doesn’t stop at helping people create or find great content - it requires us to continue building products that allow people to share with one another and deepen friendships and community connections throughout their journey on Facebook.
How this translates into priorities
Much of our work across the organization is already aimed at improving our discovery engine. But there are a smaller set of initiatives that represent big investment areas in 2022 to accelerate progress. These are outlined below, and will be how we communicate our priorities going forward:
Make Reels successful. It’s critical to ensure people have great ways to create content and express themselves. Today’s genre of public short-form video opens up new ways for people to create and discover content. While Facebook’s discovery engine is designed to support many different formats (text, photos, video, and eventually Metaverse experiences), our biggest gap today is around short-form video and that’s why we’re focused on integrating Reels in Home, Watch, IFR, and Groups.
Build world-class recommendations technology. While we frequently talk about products people can see and use, the quality of what’s under the hood powering these experiences is more important than ever. Building a world-class recommendations system that is responsive to your interests, can identify trending content and original creators, and makes responsible recommendations while evaluating billions of pieces of content produced across Meta is an incredibly challenging technical problem. It’s a different problem than ranking the top content from the people, groups, or businesses you’re connected to and requires state-of-the-art technical innovation to succeed. We’re investing heavily in our Modern Recommendation Systems initiative with partners across the company to accelerate our work here.
Unlock messaging-based sharing. Messaging apps have become an important venue for people to share and have conversations with smaller groups of friends and sub-communities. We’re also seeing shifts away from resharing content broadly via Feed and towards resharing content to smaller audiences in messaging apps. Given how much sharing and social interactions take place on messaging apps, it’s important that we integrate messaging experiences more fundamentally into how we enable people to connect and share on Facebook. To that end, we’re partnering with the Messenger team to enable an integrated inbox for more people on Facebook, revamping our sharing flows to enable better sharing to messaging apps across the board, and building community messaging experiences across Facebook and Messenger.
While the efforts above are called out as priorities, it does not mean that other work across the organization isn’t important. Advancing all pillars of our strategy, ensuring Facebook is safe and enjoyable, supporting our revenue and engagement goals, and contributing to the broader set of Meta-level priorities require a strong portfolio of work across our organization. The reason the priorities above are highlighted is that these efforts represent the near-term, high-lift investments that we must accelerate to unlock foundational changes to how people will use Facebook over the next few years. They also represent some of the biggest - but also most challenging - opportunities for us to succeed with Young Adults. As top product priorities, we’ll communicate regularly about these and ensure that these areas and their dependencies receive the level of focus and investment required to succeed.
Lastly, I want to emphasize that in January we shared an aspiration to approach building products that are “Trustworthy,” “People-Centric,” and “Unified.” Rather than call these out as a discrete product priority, I want to emphasize that these are values we want to infuse into everything we build as part of the cultural change we’re making throughout the organization. I’ll continue to advocate for and highlight progress here across all of our teams.
This document was first reported by Alex Heath for The Verge: Facebook is changing its algorithm to take on TikTok, leaked memo reveals
Elon Musk emails Tesla’s board
From: Elon Musk
To: BoD; Todd Maron; Deepak Ahuja
Sent: 8/2/2018 3:26:59 PM
Subject: Offer to Take Tesla Private at $420
It is my firm belief that Tesla can operate more effectively as a private company for the next several years. In the future, once Tesla enters a phase of slower, more predictable growth, it will likely make sense to return to the public markets.
However, being public during this period of rapid and often unpredictable growth:
1. Subjects Tesla to constant defamatory attacks by the short-selling community, resulting in great harm to our valuable brand.
2. Puts great pressure on Tesla to make decisions for a given quarter that are suboptimal for long-term shareholder value creation.
3. Causes wild swings in our share price, which are a constant distraction to Tesla employees, all of whom are shareholders, making it harder to focus on useful work.
The difference in operational efficiency between Tesla and SpaceX, the latter being privately held, is dramatic.
Unless another bidder comes forward with a better offer, I would ask that this matter be put to a shareholder vote at the earliest opportunity. This offer expires in 30 days.
Please note that I fully support any shareholders who wish to remain shareholders of Tesla as a private company retaining their shares. This offer is just for those who do not wish to remain shareholders of Tesla as a private company.
From: Elon Musk
CC: Todd Maron; Deepak Ahuja
Sent: 8/11/2018 9:27:34 PM
Subject: Egon Durban of Silver Lake
I formally engaged Egon to lead the Tesla go-private transaction. From all I can gather, he is the best in the world at this and has no problem with a hardcore battle. Egon is confident that we can get this done without giving unreasonable terms to any investor.
He is talking to Todd either tonight or tomorrow morning.
Goldman is also very supportive.
Have engaged Steve Rosenblum of Wachtell, who was lead counsel on the Dell deal and may also engage Munger, Olson. Mark Kim in their office seems very strong.
We should get a positive statement from the Saudis soon.
[This document is from In re Tesla Inc. Securities Litigation (2022).]
Previously: Elon Musk texts Saudi Public Investment Fund
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