Social Throwback 2021: The year Facebook became just a social media platform

Facebook is now just another social media platform — one that spent 2021 potentially shaping the beginnings of a post-pandemic world.

Jagruti Verma
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Facebook 2021

Facebook is no longer a tech parent company, it's just another social media platform — one that spent 2021 potentially shaping the beginnings of a post-pandemic world.

2021 was an explosive year for Facebook — starting with an intense situation where the platform joined other social media platforms in restricting the access of the President of the United States. With this, Facebook joined the ranks of several other social media platforms in putting across a strong message that policy violations were more important to them than political powers. At the same time, several allegations came up against the platform from time to time, ranging from misuse of data to toxic targeting of children.

On the corporate end, the company's identity was changed drastically. The platform also played a key role in building the foundation of what could be called a post-pandemic world, giving people the tools to be informed, imagine and express their emotions. Here, we document the key highlights of 2021 for Facebook.

Meta is Born

One of the biggest updates in Facebook's history came about this year. The name is no longer the corporate identity of a group of apps and services — it's simply a social media platform. Its successor, Meta, is a social technology company, which will go forth and build metaverse, a virtual reality world that blends online social experiences with immersive experiences. In terms of corporate structure, it was decided to include Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp, and other services under Facebook Reality Labs — a separate reporting segment in the quarterly earnings report.

Facebook Messenger Turns Ten

2021 was a milestone for Facebook Messenger, which completed a decade of existence. The OG DM, if you will. Over the years, Facebook has tweaked the service quite a bit, giving it enough strength to stand the tests of time (and a flurry of messaging apps). Several new features were launched to celebrate the occasion. These included poll games in group chat, cash gifts to send friends real money (for users in the US), birthday chat theme, 360 background, AR effect, birthday song as soundmoji, message effect, and a 'Messenger is 10!' sticker pack.

Redesigning the Settings Page

Facebook revamped the Settings Page in 2021, making it easier for users to locate and/or search relevant options with ease. Though a basic step, it was an important one, for it gave users more control over managing their experience on the app/mobile web. Effectively, Facebook Settings were collated into six main categories: Account, Preferences, Audience & Visibility, Permissions, Your Information, and Community Standards & Legal Policies. The searchability of settings was also improved for users who may not know the exact name of what aspect of their experience they wished to tweak.

Fight Against Misinformation

To curb the spread of misinformation, Facebook launched a couple of new features this year. It started providing more context for fact-checked content, helping people better understand why the piece of information could be harmful if shared. The topics under the initiative included COVID-19 and vaccines, climate change, and elections. If a user were interacting with a Page that has a history of repeatedly sharing content that's rated false by Facebook's fact-checkers, they would see a pop-up reflecting that. A link to the fact-checking program was also added to such communication, adding credibility to the argument. Penalties were expanded to include accounts of individuals who routinely share misinformation — Facebook started reducing their reach.

Partnership with Spotify

In partnership with Facebook this year, Spotify had launched a new miniplayer experience that allowed users to listen to audio available on the audio-streaming platform without leaving the Facebook app. While Spotify Premium users could discover music and episodes, general users had access to the experience with ads via the shuffle mode. Driven by social discovery, the audio experience was launched as a means to leverage the overlapping users (who use both Spotify and Facebook) who tend to share their choice of music and podcasts on social media.

Facebook 2021

Here’s a quick look at a month-wise update on Facebook:

January 2021

  • Developers of third-party apps were given the option to provide two modes of Facebook Login to their users: Classic mode and Limited Login mode, designed to give users an option to restrict the data shared
  • Facebook introduces Dashboard for businesses to handle issues such as suspensions
  • AI technology used to generate photo descriptions gets an improvement boost
  • Access Your Information tool is revamped by Facebook
  • Roy Austin joins Facebook as VP of Civil Rights
  • Redesigned Facebook Pages experience devalues ‘Like’
  • Facebook blocks Trump for policy violations
  • Facebook advertising integrity head since 2017 quits company

February 2021

  • Climate Science Information Center, which provides information and resources from various organisations on Facebook, was expanded with improvements and introductions of new sections
  • Facebook decided to decrease the amoung of political content shown in the News Feed, starting with a testing phase for limited users in the USA
  • A step-by-step breakdown of the process of selection of content for the News Feed was unveiled
  • Facebook develops Topic Exclusion Controls to enable advertisers to supervise the placement of their ads, ensuing it appears next to content based on brand suitability

March 2021

  • Facebook allows users, globally, to set up two-face authentication and log in on mobile using security keys
  • Restrictions are announced for harmful Groups to limit discovery and eventually removal for repeated violations
  • The ability for Instagram creators to have their public Reels recommended on Facebook is India is tested
  • Creators get more money-making avenues
  • Facebook Community Manager Certification Program is expanded to more languages and countries

April 2021

  • Facebook introduces new tools in an effort to help businesses connect with their customers
  • Spotify launches a new miniplayer that lets Premium users listen to audio without leaving the Facebook app
  • Feedback-driven signals are explored for News Feed ranking
  • Audio features are launched to keep up with Clubhouse, Spaces
  • Users are given direct control over what they see in their news feed and who can comment on their posts
  • Facebook surprises users with new ‘layout’ feature
  • Resources launched for users to celebrate Ramadan
  • Dynamic Ads are introduced for streaming platforms

May 2021

  • Facebook announces that it will provide context for fact-check content, expand penalties for users sharing misinformation and the launch of redesigned notifications for posts that have been debunked
  • The option to hide public like counts is rolled out
  • Live Shopping Fridays are introduced
  • COVID-19 Announcement tool starts being used in India to disseminate public health-related information
  • Facebook tests prompt encouraging users to read an article before sharing
  • Neighborhoods, an in-app destination to connect with and build local communities, was tested
  • New chat themes are launched for Facebook Messenger
  • Facebook launches a prompt to tackle Apple privacy update

June 2021

  • Facebook launches Live Audio Rooms and Podcasts
  • #MoreMusicTogether: Facebook partners with artists, music publishers, and labels to provide an engaging experience and add new features to enable music lovers to create personalised content
  • Tools launched for Group admins and community managers to streamline the experience of managing communities and help moderators curb conflicts
  • Facebook adds The Healthy Indian Project as health specialised fact-checking partner
  • Global ads chief, Everson departs from Facebook
  • Facebook Messenger introduces new chat themes and payment feature
  • Creators were allowed to make use of the monetisation features of Facebook-owned platforms to withdraw their earnings without any fee being charged on it
  • By introducing updates like the affiliate tool and new shop set up, Facebook attempted to provide creators with a platform to connect with brands, earn money from their fans, and set up their online businesses
  • Facebook rolls out new monetisation features for gaming video on demand

July 2021

  • Facebook Messenger rolls out Soundmojis & India-specific data on emojis

August 2021

  • Facebook Messenger introduces new features to mark 10th anniversary
  • Settings Page is redesigned to improve user experience

September 2021

  • Short video experience, creative tools, Instagram Reel recommendations and the ability to create Reels is brought to the main Facebook app in the US
  • Facebook integrates Vimeo Create to streamline video ad creation
  • Climate Science Center is upgraded with more geographies and initiatives to distribute climate-related information
  • Facebook introduces in-app Fantasy Games and expands expands music library for gaming creators

October 2021

  • Facebook launches Brand Rights Protection, a new tool that enables enrolled trademark owners to report and initiate takedown of content that infringes their Intellectual Property Rights
  • Old ad measurement tools updated and new ones launched to enable advertisers to drive marketing objectives on Facebook and measure the performance of campaigns
  • Facebook Gaming platform announces the launch of co-streaming

November 2021

  • Facebook adds marketing analytics & AR courses to its Career Programs
  • Product Recommendations & Shops are introduced in Groups
  • Ad targeting options perceived as sensitive to be removed by Facebook
  • New features are introduced to help admins strengthen group culture and manage their communities
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