Facebook is to change the way its News Feed feature works, replacing it with multiple feeds organized by content type. It could make the site easier to use, but such a drastic change is likely to upset many users, at least at first.
The change, expected to be unveiled tomorrow, has been described as the first significant alteration in the seven years since News Feed launched. I’d disagree with that as I know a lot of people thrown by the introduction of the option to switch between getting posts in chronological order and in Facebook’s perceived order of importance.
That change will feature in the new version of the News Feed. At the top of the feed you’ll see a row of buttons to switch the content of the feed. These will include “Top Stories” and “Most Recent”, which are options currently hidden away under a gray “SORT” link, so users who are currently confused may be more likely to figure out what is happening.
The other buttons will filter the feed by content type. For example, there’ll be a Photo feed that simply shows any pictures your friends have posted, whether on Facebook or Instagram. There’ll also be a Music feed that includes all those automated posts you see when a friend books concert tickets, listens to a song on Spotify and so on. Other feeds could include videos, news links and posts made by apps such as games.
In each of these feeds, Facebook plans to take advantage of the fact there’ll be fewer individual entries by making each one bigger. That means larger thumbnails of photos and possibly longer extracts from linked articles.
What isn’t clear yet is whether the content in these specific feeds will be repeated in the main Top Stories/Most Recent feeds. If it’s totally segregated, this would leave these main feeds consisting solely of status updates without any of the “clutter” of automated posts. That would certainly be welcome news for many users.
As usual, advertising is playing a role in driving the changes. It appears Facebook will offer companies the opportunity to create ads in a specific format to appear in specific feeds. For example, a company could create an ad with a large image that appears in your feed of photographs, giving it more of a visual impact.
If the feeds are totally segregated, it could change the way advertisers spend on the site. For example, music-related adverts in a music feed will likely get fewer views than they do now (because many people won’t bother looking at the music feed) but a higher click-rate among those who do view them (because they are specifically interested in and looking for music content.) That might make choosing an ad plan based on views rather than clicks appear better value.
How this will work on the mobile edition isn’t yet confirmed. The most likely answer is that rather than try to fit all the buttons across the narrower screen, the layout will mean you can change feed types through the same “side-menu” that you use to switch to groups, apps or individual profiles.