Facebook Explains News Feed Algorithm Changes

Facebook has declared that it's going to roll out a series of explainers making sense of its News Feed algorithm. In other words, it's finally decided to break its code of silence about what exactly does and doesn't go into our feeds.


For example: Why was I told that my acquaintance was having a bath, but missed a 200-comment fight between my best friend and her boyfriend? Do my friends hate me, or did they just miss that shot of my cat in a hat?

Every time you log onto Facebook, there are 1500 potential stories that may or may not make an appearance. How does a computer algorithm decide where it should all fit in?

Here's what Facebook says:

We are continually working to improve News Feed and from time to time we make updates to the algorithm that determines which stories appear first. We’ve heard from our users and Page owners that we need to do a better job of communicating these updates. Starting today, we’re going to try and change that. News Feed FYI blog posts, beginning with this one, will highlight major updates to News Feed and explain the thinking behind them.

Both ordinary Facebook users and companies who use it to advertise can benefit from a better understanding of EdgeRank (the News Feed algorithm employed by the site). Eagle-eyed Facebookers have noticed that the more you interact with someone on Facebook, the higher their posts get bumped up; if you've just stalked a hundred photos of someone you knew ten years ago, you'll be seeing their updates for a while; and the more "likes" and comments posts get, the more people you know will see it. (For a full infographic of EdgeRank, we've got you covered here.)

Now, when Facebook does shake up EdgeRank's algorithm (which happens regularly), we'll find out how and why.

So far, here's what we've been given the deets about:

Story Bumping. Before this update, if you didn't scroll through all of your top updates because you were busy living life or something, you'd come back a few hours later and, bingo, brand-new stories with no trace of the oldies-but-goodies. Now, your top Feed updates aren't just "new" but "new to you" — if you haven't seen them before, but Facebook has decided you want to, they'll keep on bumpin' them towards the top.

Last Actor. The site slightly creepily stores the last 50 people you interacted with (aka viewed photos of, talked to on Facebook Chat, liked a shot of their omelette, whatever) and then shows you those people's updates.

Chronological By Actor. Like Twitter, if your Facebook friend is manically posting something in real-time, you'll get the updates in real-time, too — not just the ones that are most "liked" shoved to the top.

So, if someone you don't know too well keeps "liking" your posts, it probably means you're showing up on their feed...because they've recently stalked you.

You can decide for yourself whether that's super creepy or proof of requited love. We can't do everything for you, guys.

(Image: Flickr/mkhmarketing)