Thursday, 18 August, 2022

Scitech Special

Facebook to restore chronological feeds

Facebook is going back to basics, restoring a chronological news feed to its app to make it easier for users to keep up with posts from their friends.

More than a decade after Facebook updated its patented News Feed to default to showing ‘top stories’ rather than a chronological list of posts from friends and pages, the company is restoring the ability to “easily see the most recent posts from friends, Pages and groups”.

Facebook is splitting the feed over two tabs on its iOS and Android apps – Feeds and Home. “One of the most requested features for Facebook is to make sure people don’t miss friends’ posts,” Mark Zuckerberg said in a post announcing the feature, “so today we’re launching a Feeds tab where you can see posts from your friends, groups, Pages and more separately in chronological order.

“The app will still open to a personalised feed on the Home tab, where our discovery engine will recommend the content we think you’ll care most about. But the Feeds tab will give you a way to customise and control your experience further.”

The Feeds tab will let users curate a subsection of the pages, groups and friends they follow to appear on the chronological view. The idea is that the Home tab, with its aggressive algorithmic curation, can become “more of a discovery engine for you to find and follow new content and creators through recommendations”, the company says, while Feeds “provides an easy way to access the content from the people and communities you’re already connected with on Facebook”.

The change has implications for Facebook’s bottom line: adverts are included in the Feeds tab but “suggested for you” posts are not, increasing the value of paying for “reach” on the site as opposed to trying to grow “organically” by gaming the site’s algorithms.

Much will remain unchanged, however. The Home tab will continue to be the main view for users when they first open the Facebook app, and it will contain Reels, the site’s clone of TikTok, and Stories, its clone of Snapchat’s ephemeral video feature, along the top. “Your Home tab is uniquely personalised to you through our machine learning ranking system,” the company said. “This system takes into account thousands of signals to help cut through the clutter and rank content in the order we think you will find most valuable. We’re investing in AI to best serve recommended content in this ranked experience.

“While Home is where you’ll increasingly find community through your passions and interests, you can continue to stay up to date on the people and communities you care about most in Feeds.”

The new tabs will begin appearing on the Facebook app from Thursday and will roll out globally over the next week.

The change is one of the most significant to come to the News Feed since the switch to algorithmic sorting in 2011. The feed itself, borrowed from sites such as Twitter and Flickr but patented by Facebook in 2010, was wildly controversial when it was first introduced in 2006, with users arguing it was a privacy violation to group previously hidden information such as posts, photos and likes in one easy view. But its popularity soon won out, and a news feed rapidly became standard for almost every social network.