Dossier 15: The Perfect Feed


If you want your For You Page on TikTok to serve you more videos similar to the one you’re watching, you need to make the app believe you’re interested in it. This goes beyond merely liking the video, but extends to scrolling through the comment section, leaving a comment yourself, checking out the creator’s profile, checking out the suggested search query, watching the video a couple times over and sharing it. It’s basically simulating what the app reads as organic interest or “engagement”. Experienced users know this, exploit these tactics and can tinker their For You Page to their liking quite well. Taking notice of this strategy raised the question that serves as the starting point for this dossier’s theme: why can’t we have more direct control over what pops up in our feed? Followed up by questions like: what would we actually want our feed to be? What kind of content do we want to see, and how do we want to navigate that content? How do our current feeds actually work and how did we end up with them? We decided to embark on the impossible quest to find the Perfect Feed.

Over the past two decades, several shifts have occurred in the focus and types of feeds we scroll through on a daily basis. Going from friends, to followers, to “For You” content. While the modus operandi of Twitter (…or X) has always been that you follow both people you know and people you don’t, for most other platforms this has not always been the case. 

When Facebook introduced their News Feed in 2006—a controversial move at the time—it was filled with your friends’ status updates and on-platform activity. This friend-focused nature got watered down with the introduction of Groups and Pages in 2010 and 2012. Around that same time, Instagram and Vine were launched, and it became more common to follow people you didn’t know personally. The latest shift, from followers to For You, happened with TikTok’s rise in popularity from ca. 2018 . Although platforms like YouTube and Instagram (with its Explore tab) had already integrated recommended content, TikTok really put the recommendation algorithm at the center of their platform with the For You Page. This page is the first thing you see when you open the app, not the Following Page, which exclusively serves you content from accounts you follow, like most other platforms. Because of these changes, what we see on social media also changed from mundane or intimate “status updates”, to a variety of “content”, which can be many things, but is often intended to be seen and shared publicly.

In this dossier we’ll explore the history and possible futures of the Feed and all its opportunities and imperfections. Jason Scott lays down a history of pre- and early Web feeds. Carolina Pinto interviews Daniel Pianetti, co-founder of, about the setup of his platform. We share the outcomes of the workshops we organised. For this dossier’s image contribution, web artist Yehwan Song presents a set of new interaction models that could serve as future feeds. And to help us find alternative ways to engage online, Margot Schlögel dives deep into the mechanisms behind the addictiveness of the feed.