Instagram Reels vs Tiktok which app has the best recommendation system?

In front of a 15-second short video, the social giant has no choice but to "break the defense". According to App Annie's research data, in 2020, TikTok is already the app with the longest average usage time by American users. Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger, which are owned by FB, can only rank 2-5. If you can't beat it, just learn. Facebook's photo social platform Instagram has recently practiced TikTok's "martial arts". Recently, Instagram executive Adam Mosseri released a video. In the video, he announced that Instagram is no longer a "picture sharing app", but will be transformed into an "entertainment platform".

Specifically, Instagram will provide users with more video content, and it will be "immersive" and "built for mobile" video. Instagram will continue to embrace the "recommendation algorithm" and add more personalized recommendation content to the homepage... Between the lines, it is full of TikTok's successful passwords. This isn't the first time Instagram has transformed, nor is it the first time it has imitated rivals.

Can Instagram succeed?

Instagram’s high-profile announcement of a transformation is not the first time FB has “stolen” TikTok. As early as 2018, when TikTok's monthly activity just exceeded 100 million, FB has already responded. It launched Lasso, a short-video app. In terms of product logic, Lasso can be said to be a pixel-level clone of TikTok, with the same "vertical short video", the same "unlimited swipe stream", and the same "highlight video BGM", and the same "like and share buttons".

Because of this, FB did not use too many official resources to promote Lasso but chose to go online in a low-key manner and try to seek natural growth. But Lasso didn't get anywhere. After 8 months of silent operation, FB decided to shut it down. Shutting down Lasso does not mean that FB has surrendered, on the contrary, it has begun to increase its efforts to fight TikTok.

Looking back at the history of Instagram's development, this is almost an "evolutionary" history of constantly beating opponents through iteration and transformation. In countless iterative transformations, there are both innovation and optimization, as well as plagiarism and imitation. Instagram has beaten too many rivals, and TikTok is the latest, and possibly the hardest, to beat.

Instagram’s transformation, aside from the pretty words on the surface, points directly to TikTok’s “algorithmic recommendation” mechanism. Executive director Adam Mosseri said that they will put more "recommended content" that users have not yet followed into the user's homepage stream. Previously, the Instagram homepage only displayed content that users "followed". Only the secondary discovery pages have algorithm recommendations. 

In 2017, Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel came to China and made a special trip to visit Toutiao. At that time, Snapchat was in the bottleneck period of growth. After being copied by Instagram, the user growth rate gradually slowed down. After visiting Toutiao, Spiegel thinks he understands the direction of the future and wants to make a "personalized recommendation feed" similar to Toutiao on Snapchat to compete with Instagram.

After finding the direction, he also decided to learn the concepts of FB and ByteDance, and quickly develop, launch, and iterate. He set an almost impossible timetable for the team to redesign the product, develop the algorithm, and go live as quickly as possible. In February 2018, the redesigned Snapchat went live in a hurry. But it was greeted with unanimous negative reviews from users. Because of the algorithmic sorting, many users couldn't even find the news of their friends, and more than 1.2 million people "joined the book", asking Snap to roll back the app to the previous version. For three consecutive quarters, Snapchat's monthly active users did not increase but decreased.

Instagram may be more certain than Snapchat when it comes to navigating the content algorithm. Because FB can be said to be the ancestor of the concept of "content recommendation algorithm". In 2006, Facebook launched the "News Feed" function. The user's friend dynamics will be intelligently sorted according to the algorithm, and then displayed in the form of "flow". In 2016, Instagram also abandoned the "chronological" homepage flow and switched to algorithmic flow.

But in any case, FB's "sorting algorithm" and ByteDance's "recommendation algorithm" are still very different. The transition is expected to take six months to a year, Mosseri said. At present, most of the updates are in the stage of small-scale grayscale testing. After the failure of Lasso and Reels, Instagram has become more cautious. The reform it is trying is to modify its lowest-level product mechanism, which may directly User drives away.

Instagram vs. TikTok

As a "short video stream", TikTok's product logic on the surface is very simple and "easy to copy". But under the surface, its functional design as a creative tool, as well as ByteDance's content mining algorithm, are not easy to "copy". TikTok has far more technical depth than Snapchat in this regard. Well-known technology commentator Ben Thompson said when evaluating Instagram and TikTok that Instagram is about "sharing moments", while TikTok is about "creating moments". Instagram, and the FB behind it, are based on the user's social network, where users create, share, and consume content, weaving a "web". So no matter how Reels changes the product logic, users still see 15 seconds of content that is not much different from "Snapshots". It's essentially just a copy of "Story".

In contrast, TikTok and ByteDance are more like “media companies.” Although anyone can create and publish content on TikTok, a very small handful of "high-quality content" has attracted most of the attention and is pushed to more people's information streams. This structure is more like a "pyramid". The content created by users has to be "eliminated" by the algorithm, but as long as it is verified to be "attractive enough", it will be pushed to a huge number of users. Although the user did not follow the creator.

TikTok finally "survived". In February of this year, the Biden administration submitted an application to the federal court to suspend the hearing of the appeal case on the TikTok ban. After a turbulent 2020, TikTok has also overtaken FB in a corner, and it is already the app with the highest average usage time for American users.

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