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Facebook tweaks its news feed to show users more personalized content

Zach Miners | Aug. 7, 2013
Facebook is incorporating some changes into its news feed to make the content that it displays to users more personalized and relevant.

The company has faced questions over the algorithms that it uses to display news feed content from some users' friends but not others. The algorithm uses "several factors" to determine top stories, including the number of comments, who posted the story, and what type of post it is, Facebook's website says.

Since Facebook launched news feed in 2006, the amount and variety of content it has had to sort through has exploded. On average, Facebook's news feed has to sort through 1,500 posts daily to determine which ones to display to users, the company said.

Tuesday's briefing was intended to provide a little more clarity on how news feed's sorting algorithms really work, and also introduce changes to make it better.

Upon news feed's inception, "there was less going on," said Lars Backstrom, an engineering manager at Facebook who handles news feed's ranking algorithms.

"This is a hard problem to solve," he said, speaking of Facebook's efforts to keep users engaged with the site while cutting back on superfluous or irrelevant content.

The still-in-development "chronological by actor" feature shows that the process to improve news feed is difficult. That feature, which was designed to use chronology rather than strictly relevance to sort news feed posts, actually resulted in less engagement on the site in internal tests. Facebook is taking it back to the drawing board.

In sorting news feed content and improving its rankings, Facebook is tasked with a challenge on par with how Google displays search results, the company said.

"Facebook is one of the only places where you have a problem on the same scale that Google is doing for search relevance, but you have to use very different techniques due to the personalized aspect of news feed," Backstrom said.

More changes to news feed are coming in the weeks ahead, Facebook said.

Facebook applied a series of more cosmetic changes to its news feed in March, highlighting photographs and content from publishers while trimming clutter.

 

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