Facebook tweaks its news feed to show users more personalized content

New features include 'story bumping'

By Zach Miners, IDG News Service |  Internet

Facebook is incorporating some changes into its news feed to make the content that it displays to users more personalized and relevant.

The adjustments comprise three new features that will change the way the news feed's sorting algorithms work: "story bumping" and "last actor," which are rolling out now; and "chronological by actor," which is still being developed.

Each feature will work differently, but they share a common goal -- to filter out the noise in people's feeds and make the content that is displayed more personalized and relevant to them. All three were announced Tuesday during a briefing with the media at Facebook's headquarters in Menlo Park, California. The changes to news feed are aimed at organic content like posts from users' friends and Pages that they follow, rather than advertising content.

Story bumping is the biggest change, Facebook engineers said, and is undergoing a partial launch right now to users worldwide.

Story bumping changes the way that new stories are displayed to users when they log into the site. Previously, new stories that Facebook ranked as being relevant to the user would be pushed to the top of their feeds, but with story bumping, some posts that had appeared farther down in people's feeds and were not seen during a previous session might be bumped up to the top of news feed during a subsequent log-in.

Not every old story will be bumped up in this manner, Facebook said, and news feed's sorting algorithms will still use other signals like the user's previous interactions with the person who made the post to determine whether to bump up the story.

Story bumping is not expected to bring any hugely dramatic changes to how content is displayed within the news feed. In internal tests of the feature, Facebook saw just a 5 percent increase in the number of likes, comments and shares from users on posts made by their friends, engineers reported during the event.

The last-actor feature, meanwhile, keeps track of users' 50 most recent interactions with other people on the site. So if a person hits "like" for a story from someone that Facebook normally wouldn't rank highly in the news feed for that user, subsequent posts from that person might be placed higher in the news feed.

In internal tests, this feature saw an even more modest increase in people's interaction with their feed content, Facebook engineers said.

Facebook's news feed presents a constantly updating stream of content from the people and Pages users follow on the site. News feed content can take the form of status updates, photos, videos, links, third-party app activity and likes.

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