Total Pageviews

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Facebook Adjusts Its News Feed to Bump Up Older Posts

The Facebook news feed is getting slightly less mysterious â€" and perhaps more relevant, too.

In a blog post on Tuesday, the company explained some of the mysteries of the news feed, which is the flow of status updates and other posts on a user’s home page or screen.

On any given visit to Facebook, the average user could potentially see about 1,500 items, the company said, from wedding photos posted by a close friend to a mundane notice that an acquaintance is now friends with someone else.

Since no one has time to scroll through that many Facebook posts, items in the feed are ranked to put the most recent and relevant posts near the top. How does the system define relevance? The formula is still a bit of a black box, but it includes how often you interact with the person or page posting the item, your relationship to the poster and whether you’ve like or hidden posts in the past from that source.

Now, the world’s largest network is making a couple of changes to improve the relevance of the items. And it says it will also regularly disclose more information about the workings of the news feed on its Facebook for Business blog.

The first change, which is already live on the Web version of Facebook and will come soon to mobile versions, goes through recent but older stories that you never looked at and pulls the best ones forward. So the feed will now be a mix of new items and golden oldies.

The second change, which is coming soon, will look at the last 50 interactions you’ve had on your news feed â€" such as likes and comments â€" and rank future posts from those people and pages more highly. (The current system does look at recent interactions, but puts less weight on them in the rankings.)

“We wanted to capture your current state of mind,” said Lars Backstrom, the engineering manager for news feed ranking, at a meeting with journalists.

The overall goal is to get people to spend more time on the news feed and interact with more items â€" which, not coincidentally, exposes people to more ads. According to the company, changing the feed to bump up important older posts that were missed increased likes, comments and shares by 5 percent to 8 percent among users in a test group.

However, none of the changes are likely to satisfy Facebook users, who routinely complain that their news feeds don’t deliver quite what they want to see. (Two easy tips to get more relevant items in your news feed: press the like button on items you find interesting, but also hit the hide button on things you don’t like.)

Calibrating the never-ending flow of information is a constant challenge for Facebook and every other social network. But going back to the early days of showing posts in reverse chronological order, without judging their importance, isn’t a realistic option for most people, the company says (although you can click a button to view your feed that way, if you prefer that).

“Our ranking isn’t perfect, but in our tests, when we stop ranking and instead show posts in chronological order, the number of stories people read and the likes and comments they make decrease,” the company wrote in its blog post.