Last week, we wrote about Instagram’s prototyping a ‘Latest Posts’ feature and now according to Jane Manchun Wong, Facebook could be rolling out something similar.
Facebook’s infamous News Feed algorithm has helped the platform maximise engagement and boost time spent in-app, but for many users, it’s been a constant bugbear.
The algorithm aims to show users the content that they’re likely to be interested in, using a range of factors in its equations, including when something is posted, how often the user interacts with the owner and what type of post is being shared. This means that users generally see posts that are getting higher levels of engagement to appear closer to the top of their feeds.
Jane has uncovered the new Facebook test, which would provide a simplified toggle that users could use to switch across different variations of their News Feed.
In the images above, we can see that the test provides three different variations of the News Feed in separate tabs, which users would be able to access along the top of the feed list.
These versions are:
- Most Relevant – the most current, default algorithm-defined feed view.
- Most Recent – which enables users to see the latest posts from the people and pages they follow in reverse chronological order.
- Already Seen – which would enable users to go back over the posts they’ve already seen (which is handy for finding that post you saw earlier).
These new listing options wouldn’t add anything new to Facebook’s functionally. Users can already access a reverse chronological News Feed by switching to most recent via the ‘More; listing in the app or clicking on the three dots beside ‘News Feed’ in the right-hand column on desktop.
However, these settings can’t be saved, so when the app is relaunched or the tab is reloaded, it’ll default back to the algorithm feed. Users can also view their ‘Already Seen’ listing via this URL: http://www.facebook.com/seen
The new option would make it easier to access both, which could be a welcome change. Facebook has confirmed that the option is being tested internally, although it says it has no plans to roll it out to the public at this stage.
But this might not be as great as many users would hope. While calls for less algorithm intervention constantly resonate across every platform with users, when people have been provided with the capacity to switch it off, most haven’t bothered to do so.
Twitter announced an option to easily switch between ‘Latest’ and ‘Top’ tweets back in November 2018, enabling users to essentially turn off its algorithm sorting (which was rolled out in 2016). Twitter, however, says that even with this option, most users have stuck with the algorithm-defined listing, and simultaneously on-platform engagement has continued to rise, underlining its beneficial impact.
Facebook experimented with alternative feed options back in 2016 – tabbed News Feed listings, separated by topic, in order to boost engagement – but this didn’t really work out and Facebook abandoned this before it got too far.
As noted, while the rumbling of dissatisfaction with algorithm-defined feeds are ever-present on every network, when provided with an alternative, most users don’t bother changing their behaviour. Perhaps, a reverse-chronological feed switch on Facebook would be different – but don’t count on it.
It’s interesting to see that Facebook is exploring this aspect though, which suggests that the social network believes it could be an element that’ll generate more engagement. The introduction of an alternate chronological feed also aligns with the broader social media shift towards giving users more control and enabling them specific choice over their feeds – as opposed to hiding the backend processes and showing them what the system thinks they’ll want, even if they don’t realise it.
For example, Instagram rolled out a new option recently, which enables users to see which accounts they interact with the least, which could show them which people’s profiles they could unfollow to improve their experience.
It’s almost like a new level of trust from the platform. In the past, the apps have taken much of this type of control away or hidden such insight from view, which the implication seemingly being the algorithm knows better, and you should trust that.
With more people being educated on how social platforms work and what following certain people and pages means for their feeds, users are a little more discerning in their following habits. You can see this specifically on Instagram – the old ‘follow for follow’ trick, for example, isn’t as effective on ‘the gram’ because people don’t as readily add others on the platform as they did on Facebook and Twitter.
And because users are now more discerning and more conscious of what they’re allowing in their feeds, the need for algorithm dictation reduces – which is why platforms may now feel more comfortable allowing users access to tools like this. Because the impact of them making such a switch is less than it would have been in the past anyway, or simply, users won’t bother even using it at all.
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