Facebook Rejigs News Feed, Adds Real-Time Updates

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Facebook’s move to reorganise the way updates appear in news feeds has annoyed its users

Facebook has made some changes to its news feed and introduced real-time updates, ahead of the social network’s annual f8 event in San Francisco.

Updates in the news feed previously appeared in chronological order, but Facebook now selects a handful of ‘top stories’, which appear at the top of the feed when you log in. According to Mark Tonkelowitz, an engineering manager at Facebook, this helps users to “zero in on what matters most”.

“Now, News Feed will act more like your own personal newspaper,” said Tonkelowitz in a blog post. “You won’t have to worry about missing important stuff. All your news will be in a single stream with the most interesting stories featured at the top.”

Facebook chooses ‘top stories’

For users who do not log on very often, Facebook will choose the stories that it thinks are “most interesting,” to appear at the top of the home page. These are marked with a blue corner, to distinguish them from the normal news feed, which appears below. For those who check Facebook more frequently, they’ll see the most recent stories first.

Photos are also given greater prominence in the news feed – appearing much larger than previously.

Meanwhile, Facebook has introduced a real-time feed of status updates in the top right corner of the home page, known as Ticker. This is intended to encourage users to chat with their friends about photos, articles, and other things they’re posting in real-time.

“Ticker shows you the same stuff you were already seeing on Facebook, but it brings your conversations to life by displaying updates instantaneously,” said Tonkelowitz. “Now when a friend comments, asks a question or shares something like a check in, you’ll be able to join the conversation right away. Click on anything in ticker to see the full story and chime in – without losing your place.”

Negative reception

While Facebook seems confident that these changes will make conversations seem “more lively,” the initial reaction from users has been fairly negative, with many taking to Twitter to complain about the latest feature.

Some have suggested a temporary work around for users outside the US to change their language settings to, for example, English UK. In most cases, this seems to force the home page to revert to the old style – although here in the eWEEK Europe office in London, we are stuck with the new version.

The news follows the introduction of two new Facebook features last week, designed to compete with Google’s new social network Google+. The first was ‘smart lists’, which essentially provides automated friend lists. The second was ‘subscribe‘, which allows users to view other people’s news feeds, even if they are not friends.

These new information-sharing tools provide a great degree of granularity, and Facebook hopes they will keep its 750 million-plus users from going to Google+ for more fine-grained sharing tools.

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