While some users are protesting Facebook’s latest design, a large number of users are actually finding the updated News Feed to be extremely useful. We’ve been spending some time considering the impact that this redesigned homepage will have on developers and have come to a few conclusions. Our most significant conclusion is that the feed is becoming more relevant to all users, but what is relevance?
The News Feed Algorithm
Facebook would most likely be inclined to say that the new homepage offers greater relevance to users, but how are they determining which stories to display? While we don’t have insight into Facebook’s exact algorithm, there are a number of variables that we believe have the greatest impact on what stories are displayed. Those variables are as follows:
- Number of friends in common – One of the easiest ways for Facebook to figure out the likelihood of how well you know someone is to look at the number of friends you have in common. For those individuals who you share a large number of common friends, you are more likely to see stories that they’ve posted.
- Number of comments and likes – While you may not have a strong connection with someone, often times a user will receive a large number of comments and likes on their feed story. Facebook will weigh those stories which have numerous comments and likes as more relevant.
- Frequency of profile views – Have you been Facebook stalking someone lately? There’s a good chance that all of their activities will now show up in your feed. The more often you view someone, the more likely they’ll show up in your feed, despite the number of friends you have in common.
- Type of story – While I’m not sure about this one, Facebook used to weigh certain types of stories higher than others. For example: someone changing their relationship status is more likely to get priority for the feed than a generic status update that receives no comments and likes.
Ultimately there are a variety of factors that determine the likelihood for a story to show up in your News Feed and Facebook is most definitely adjusting this algorithm over time. The aim is to find stories which are most relevant to you, not just an unfiltered stream of stories from all of your contacts.
Is Relevance A Good Thing?
Most developers will not be happy about the latest change because an unfiltered stream is always better than a filtered one. Some developers have depended on feed distribution to keep users returning to their applications, however with this latest design change, application stories are less likely to show up in your feed unless they are published by people you want to hear from.
While number of friends in common is likely to give a user increasing influence over your feed, you will also see stories from the people who you want to hear from. Like I mentioned earlier, Facebook stalking someone will instantly place them in your feed (not that I know anything about that 😉 ). For users, filtering through the noise is extremely valuable.
Did I really want to know how likely a friend that I haven’t spoken to for 20 years is to become a celebrity or which branch of the military they are most likely to join? Possibly, however that probably isn’t the most relevant information. With the latest redesign, people who are influential in our lives once again become influential. Does your News Feed provide the most relevant stories or do you view the unfiltered live feed?