Feeding Time at Facebook

Facebook began rolling out its new home page with its redesigned news feeds at 1 p.m. ET Friday. The site allows users to toggle between Live Feed, the real-time stream of updates from their entire network, and News Feed, which showcases updates based on interest in them, including the number of times an item is liked or commented on.

“When the user wakes up in the morning, you go to Facebook and you see the News Feed,” product manager Peter Deng told CNET News. “You see the stuff that you missed, the best of the previous day, to basically catch you up on what your friends have been up to.” And Deng told Inside Facebook, “The spirit of the change is that you’ll see a summary of stuff you missed while you were gone.”

Facebook also introduced a new feature in the Suggestions area in the right-hand corner of the home page, which encourages users to interact with friends by suggesting other friends or writing on their Walls.

Facebook engineer Raylene Lung wrote on the Facebook Blog:

At Facebook, one of our main priorities is helping you stay on top of what is going on with the people and things you care about most. That’s why today we are beginning to roll out some changes to the home page that simplify your experience by offering two views of News Feed: a summary view of the most interesting activity that’s happened in the last day and a real-time view that shows you what is happening right now.

You will be able to catch up on what you may have missed while you were away from Facebook and then easily switch to the real-time stream when you want to see posts as soon as they’re shared. Here’s how it works:

News Feed: When you log into Facebook, you’ll see the most interesting things that happened in the last day in the “News Feed” view. News Feed picks stories that we think you’ll enjoy based on a variety of factors including how many friends have liked and commented on it and how likely you are to interact with that story.

Live Feed: Once you’ve caught up on what you missed, you can click through to “Live Feed” to see what’s happening right now. As long as you remain logged into Facebook, you’ll continue to see posts and activity from your friends in real-time. You can edit what appears in this view by clicking “Edit Options” at the bottom of the home page.

Some of you may ask why we are changing the home page again. Like you, we know it can be disruptive when things are moved around, but we hope that these changes make Facebook a more valuable experience for you. We put a lot of thought into all the changes we make to the site and do a lot of testing before releasing anything.

Austin Haugen, a product manager on the Platform team, wrote in the Facebook Developers Blog:

We’re focused on creating the best ways to empower users to share with their friends, as well as providing developers with the tools they need to make applications social and add value to the Facebook experience. As a part of a greater effort to simplify the site, we’re making it easier for users to discover the most interesting content by modifying the home page stream to include two views:

News Feed will focus on popular content, determined by an algorithm based on interest in that story, including the number of times an item is liked or commented on.

Live Feed will display all recent stories from a large number of a user’s friends.

Stories your applications generate can show up in both views. The best way for your stories to appear in the News Feed filter is to create stories that are highly engaging, as high-quality, interesting stories are most likely to garner likes and comments by the user’s friends.

In addition to making the site cleaner and simpler for users, we’re also making our APIs clearer and more straightforward for developers. We built many APIs to enable you to create rich social experiences for your users, and while we create these APIs to match pace with the evolution of the features offered, we often maintain similar, more primitive versions, as well. This creates a sea of different methods with overlapping functionality. To make it simpler and easier to develop on Facebook, we’re streamlining our APIs, beginning with those that publish older-style, template-based Feed stories.

And product manager Naomi Gleit described the new Suggestions feature in the Facebook Blog:

Do you know any friends that could use a little help on Facebook? For example, maybe they recently joined the site and are having trouble finding their friends. Or maybe they’ve been on the site for awhile but never completely filled out their profiles or uploaded a profile picture.

Today, we’re introducing new Suggestions in the right-hand corner of your home page so you can easily help those friends. Facebook is only useful and relevant if you can connect with friends that matter to you, and so we already use this space to show you other people that you may know and want to share with. Now you also will begin seeing new Suggestions about people with whom you are already friends, including those who are new to the site. For instance, we may suggest that you help a friend by suggesting friends for him if he’s only connected with a few people so far.

Other new Suggestions will include friends who may need help becoming more active on the site. For instance, they may have an empty wall because no one has posted on it yet. You will see just how much help your friends need by checking out the progress bar located below their profile picture on their profile. You can help them by writing on their Wall or sending them a message, so they have a chance to get involved in sharing, as well.

david.cohen@adweek.com David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.