Facebook Tweaks News Feed Again

A new Facebook formula will prioritize recent posts more than relevancy. Here's a primer on what to expect.
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Facebook doesn't always show you the most current content in your news feed. Instead, its algorithm prioritizes what it thinks you'll find most relevant. That could all change with yet another round of updates designed to show you more about what's happening now.

The newest changes to its algorithm will prioritize posts based on whether the topic is trending and when -- instead of how many -- people like, share, or comment on it, Facebook said.

"We've heard feedback that there are some instances where a post from a friend or a Page you are connected to is only interesting at a specific moment," Facebook software engineer Erich Owens and engineering manager David Vickrey said in a blog post. "There are also times when a post that is a day or two old may not be relevant to you anymore."

If a friend or a Page you are connected to posts something that others are talking about, for example, Facebook will now show you that post near the top your news feed, the social network said. This could lead to more engagement: In tests, Facebook found that this tweak led to a 6% increase in people sharing, liking, or commenting on the post.

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The second update aims to crack down on older posts that continue to resurface in your news feed. Now Facebook will prioritize recent likes, comments, and shares over the number of interactions a post gets.

"If people are engaging with the post right after it is posted, and not as much a few hours later, this suggests that the post was most interesting at the time it was posted, but potentially less interesting at a later date," Owens and Vickrey wrote. "Based on this signal, it is more likely to appear higher in news feed earlier on and lower at a later date."

Facebook said that businesses should keep an eye on engagement metrics and expect that timely posts may see "a high velocity of engagement early on that drops off." These changes will roll out gradually, it said.

These news feed tweaks follow a round of changes from last week that updated the feedback process for irrelevant ads. Now, if you hide an ad, Facebook asks you to pick from several options to explain why: You can mark the ad as irrelevant, redundant, offensive, inappropriate, spam, or something else.

In last week's updates, Facebook said that it will place more weight on feedback from people who rarely hide ads, rather than people who routinely hide them. When it tested this, the social network found that people who rarely hid ads ended up hiding 30% fewer ads -- good news for businesses.

Facebook has also cracked down on news feed spam, including photos and videos that users repeatedly upload and posts that explicitly ask users to comment or like. "The goal of News Feed is to show the right content to the right people at the right time, whether it's from a close friend or a news source halfway across the world," Facebook engineering manager Varun Kacholia and software engineer Minwen Ji said at the time.

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