LOL – Facebook’s new and secretive way to attract teens

Yes, Facebook is once more in the news. But this time it’s not for any scandals or privacy issues. Apparently Facebook is secretly building a cringey teen meme hub. And it’s said to be known as LOL.

This news was highlighted by TechCrunch on the 18th of January 2019. The following is the entire article clearly explaining this LOL build-up.

What is this Facebook LOL?

Even after multiple failures such as Facebook Watch, Lasso and even IGTV, it seems like Facebook is still trying to attract the teenage population.

The company is now hard at work secretively on LOL – a video product for months. LOL is a meme hub of sorts meant to win the hearts and minds of teens; fleeing for greener pastures at TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram.

Basically, LOL is a special feed of funny videos and GIF-like clips. It’s divided into categories like “For You,” “Animals,” “Fails,” “Pranks” and more; with content pulled from News Feed posts by top meme Pages on Facebook. LOL is currently in private beta with around 100 high school students; who signed non-disclosure agreements with parental consent to do focus groups and one-on-one testing with Facebook staff.

TechCrunch’s words on LOL –

In response to TechCrunch’s questioning, Facebook confirmed it is privately testing LOL; as a home for funny meme content with a very small number of U.S. users. While those testers experience LOL as a replacement for their Watch tab; Facebook says there’s no plans to roll out LOL in Watch; and the team is still finalizing whether it will become a separate feature in one of Facebook’s main app or a standalone app. Facebook initially declined to give a formal statement but told us the details we had were accurate. [Update: A Facebook spokesperson has now provided an official statement – “We are running a small scale test and the concept is in the early stages right now.”]

With teens increasingly turning to ephemeral Stories for sharing and content consumption, Facebook is desperate to lure them back to its easily-monetizable feeds. Collecting the funniest News Feed posts; and concentrating them in a dedicated place could appeal to kids seeking rapid-fire lightweight entertainment. LOL could also soak up some of the “low-quality” videos Facebook scrubbed out of the News Feed a year ago; in hopes of decreasing zombie-like passive viewing that can hurt people’s well-being.

But our sources familiar with LOL’s design said it still feels “cringey”, like Facebook is futilely pretending to be young and hip. The content found in LOL is sometimes weeks old. So meme-obsessed teens may have seen it before. After years of parents overrunning Facebook, teens have grown skeptical of the app and many have fled for Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube. Parachuting into the memespehere may come off as inauthentic posing and Facebook could find it difficult to build a young fanbase for LOL.

More details about LOL –

Atop the feed is the “Dailies” section, a round-up of sorts that surfaces popular or categorically organized shorts a lot like Snapchat does. If scrolling isn’t your thing, there’s a button to play “Random” content. Users also have the option to dive into category-specific clips in feeds like “Memes,” “Pranks,” and “Gaming.”

In one of the recent designs for LOL, screenshots attained by TechCrunch show users are greeted with a carousel of themed collections called “Dailies”; like “Look Mom No Hands” in a design reminiscent of Snapchat’s Discover section. Below that there’s a feed of algorithmically curated “For You” clips. Users can filter the LOL feed to show categories like “Wait For It”, “Savage”, “Classics”, “Gaming”, “Celebs”, “School”, and “Stand-Up”, or tap buttons atop the screen to see dedicated sub-feeds for these topics.

More Insight –

Digital rights groups requested Facebook to let the user appeal removed posts

Facebook Looking to Improve User Engagement by Testing Comment Quality

From the outside, the experience — what little we’ve seen of it anyway — rings hollow; like a thinly-veiled attempt to replicate the successes of Snapchat and TikTok, all rolled into one.
Unlike Snapchat or TikTok, though, the content, according to Constine, is sometimes weeks old. For teens obsessed with meme culture, LOL may as well brand it with an “I’m Old” logo.

It’ll appeal to some millennials, specifically those who aren’t as plugged in to meme culture as teens or your average tech reporter. For many, the content could prove a welcome addition to the “I don’t know what to post” conundrum that plagues all Facebook users from time to time.

Facebook’s past failure with teen-related apps –

Facebook has repeatedly failed to capture the hearts of teens with Snapchat clones like Poke and Slingshot; standalone apps like Lifestage, and acquisitions like TBH. Fears that it’s losing the demographic or that the shift driven by the youth from feeds to Stories; that Facebook has less experience monetizing have caused massive drops in the company’s share price over the years. If Facebook can’t fill in this age gap, the next generation of younger users might sidestep the social network too; which could lead to huge downstream problems for growth and revenue.

That’s why Facebook won’t give up on teens, even despite embarrassing stumbles. Its new Tik Tok clone Lasso saw only 10,000 downloads in the first 12 days. Despite seeming like a ghost town, Facebook still updated it with a retweet-like Relasso and camera uploads today. Unlike the Tik Tok-dominated musical video space, the meme sharing universe is much more fragmented; and there’s a better chance for Facebook to barge in.

Teens discover memes on Reddit, Twitter, Instagram, and exchange them in DMs. Beyond Imgur that encompasses lots of visual storytelling styles, there’s no super-popular dedicated meme discovery app. Instagram is probably already the leader, with tons of users following meme accounts to get fresh daily dumps of jokes. Facebook might have more luck if it built meme creation tools; and a dedicated viewing hub in Explore or a second Stories tray within Instagram. As is, it mostly ignores meme culture while occasionally shutting down curators’ accounts.

Hence as Facebook tries to become more meaningful, LOL could save room for meaningless fun. For teens, there’s little chance LOL moves the needle in an ecosystem dominated by meme accounts on Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat.

Source – TechCrunch

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Navaneetha Suresh

Navaneetha Suresh

Navaneetha, commonly known as "nav", loves to read, play badminton, play the keyboard and sing but when she's not doing any of those, she loves to write. What started as a high school hobby to write is now her ongoing passion.

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