Facebook and Twitter will forever be locked in a bewildering dance wherein each continually pushes itself closer and then farther away from the other. In today's news, Facebook is moving a tiny bit closer to Twitter as it tests a new posting option that makes News Feed posts much more like tweets.
The test, spotted by CNET, allows you to make a Facebook post that's only visible to the News Feed and won't show up on your Timeline. That means the update will be far more ephemeral, quickly disappearing as other updates push it down.
These updates won't disappear entirely — you'll still be able to find them with a link and through search — but there's a very different feel to a mostly disappearing update, like this or a tweet, than there is to something like a typical Facebook post, which is carefully recorded on your Timeline to be viewed for years to come. Because posts like this won't be viewed for long, it's more comfortable to use them for quick or lighthearted updates; things that aren't necessarily outlandish but that you'd nonetheless prefer to come and go.
It appears that you have to enable News Feed-only posts on a post-by-post basis. The option appears as a "Hide from your Timeline" checkbox beside the posting button. Facebook tells Engadget it's heard that people are interested in this type of post, so it's designed this new feature to "would make it even easier to control where your posts live."
This is just a test for now, so only a portion of Facebook users are seeing it. It also isn't enabled by default. So it's hard to see this as bringing about some sort of massive change in how people use Facebook. But it may well encourage more use and posting in ways that people haven't typically been comfortable with.
Facebook has been worried about a decline in sharing across its site, and this test is certainly one of the tools being developed to address it. Already, Facebook has been rolling out a redesigned posting interface on mobile meant to get people sharing more.
TechCrunch caught sight of another Facebook test that seems to be designed with the same end in mind — increasing engagement — though with a different approach. People frequently tag their friends in the comments of a post to draw their attention to it; playing off of that, Facebook has started testing a specific tool that would let you "notify a few friends" about a post you've seen. The hope is likely that this'll get more people checking the site and talking. This too remains a test and is only available to some people for the time being.