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Facebook tilts the News Feed algorithm back to your friends

Facebook tilts the News Feed algorithm back to your friends

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Facebook has announced it's twisting the knobs that control what content you see in your News Feed to favor more content from your close friends. In a post titled "News Feed FYI: Balancing Content from Friends and Pages," Facebook said it's making three changes. The first is that it won't let people reach the "end" of a News Feed as easily, because it will be willing to show more content from the same publisher than it was before. Previously, you wouldn't be likely to get two posts from the same Page. But the other two changes are more ominous for publishers, but potentially great for users who actually want to see content from their friends: "content posted by the friends you care about" will be "higher up in the News Feed." Also, if a friend interacts with a post from a brand or publisher page, it will be less likely to show up in your News Feed.

The upshot is that you'll see much more content from your friends and much less from Pages — most of which consist of brands and publishers. As with any change in Facebook's algorithms and designs, it's likely to cause ripple effects across the web. In theory, users will be less likely to complain about this than other changes Facebook has made in the past — but never underestimate the ability of a sizable contingent of Facebook's billion-plus users to cause a fuss.

So much for Mobilegeddon

There is one contingent that will be watching these changes very closely: web publishers (The Verge included). The big story for web publishers today was supposed to be a thing everybody was calling "Mobilegeddon." It was Google's rebalancing of its search results to demote websites with bad mobile experiences. But while search results are still important to web publications, traffic from Facebook has been steadily becoming a much bigger deal. Or it could turn out not to have that strong of an effect. Last August, for example, Facebook tweaked its algorithm to try to reduce "clickbait" headlines, and the sky did not fall on web publishing.

Facebook is also holding talks with publishers to host their content directly on the site. If these algorithm changes do indeed mean problems for publications, that's a mighty big stick to swing before offering up a new hosted-content service.

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