Facebook Improved The News Feed On Slow Connections, So Say Goodbye To The Dreaded Spinner

Little is so frustrating as the moment when, just as you need a distraction, Facebook loads as nothing but a series of gray boxes taunting you with their blankness. Fortunately for your blood pressure, Facebook improved its News Feed on slow connections with its latest update, so you can scroll through engagement announcements and political rants even in a dead zone. We live in the future, y'all.

On its website, the company explains that it has spent the last year emphasizing "ways to more efficiently rank and render relevant stories without having to wait on the network." To that end, it's been altering the code behind the News Feed to make it more accessible to users with a slow connection. Here's how it works: When you have a poor connection, Facebook draws from unseen stories saved in a cache on the device as well as new stories from its company server to select content for your News Feed. This isn't anything new, but the change lies in the stories' ranking. Previously, cached stories would show up first, followed by new stories from the server. The problem is that news from the cache was saved at a time when you had a better connection, so it tends to be old by the time you get around to seeing it.

With the update, Facebook does away with the old ranking system. "Instead of waiting to show new stories until after you've seen the stories we already ranked, the next best story is selected from a pool of both new stories from the server and unseen stories from the persistent cache," Facebook writes on its website.

In other words, you'll be seeing a mix of older, previously saved stories as well as new content from the servers even on a poor connection. As Tech Crunch points out, the update will also allow Facebook to improve the way these stories show up. If you have a slow connection, the app can "temporarily downrank" media-heavy stories like videos until the images are loaded. The news won't show up until the accompanying media are on your device, so you should have to deal with fewer infuriating spinners while you wait for an image to load.

The update is part of an effort to appeal to "emerging markets" where connections tend to be slower, but it's not hard to see how it benefits all users. So next time you're stuck in a dreaded dead zone, you'll still get to keep an eye on what your high school peers are up to. In all likelihood, they're scrolling through Facebook, too.

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