Facebook Shows Off the Algorithmic Secret Sauce Behind Your News FeedS

At an event at its headquarters, Facebook explained how exactly stories are ranked in your news feed. It also showed off new changes that are coming, which are designed to help you discover older content in your feed.

Everyday, there are roughly 1500 different stories the average user could see and since you don't have time to see all of them, Facebook needs a system for prioritizing those stories so that the ones that are likely to be interesting to a particular user will show up when they login.

In an effort to show you a more relevant news feed selection of some 300 stories, Facebook adapts to your behavior in the following ways:

  • How often you interact with the friend, Page, or public figure (like an actor or journalist) who posted The number of likes, shares and comments a post receives from the world at large and from your friends in particular
  • How much you have interacted with this type of post in the past
  • Whether or not you and other people across Facebook are hiding or reporting a given post

It's pretty nice of them to show you how it all works, huh? Makes sense.

But today's story wasn't strictly about the way things have worked all along—it was also about revealing changes that will take effect going forward. Starting today, Facebook is introducing a change to the ranking algorithm that will surface older relevant stories at the top of your feed as long as they're still getting active likes, shares, etc.

The problem Facebook is trying to solve is that on a regular basis, people are reading only about 57-percent of the stories in their news feed before they stop scrolling. Now, rather than heap a bunch of new stories on top of your feed, Facebook will facilitate picking up where you left off, so to speak, except that it'll only be the very best of the stuff you didn't get to. According to Facebook, early tests of this new method result in users reading as much as 70-percent of their news feed.

Beyond the actual informational portion of today's event, Facebook also said that it would begin a policy of updating users about how the news feed ranking algorithm is changing. This certainly isn't the first time a company has done this, but it should help deal with user frustration in a big way. People are a lot less likely to hate the secret sauce if they know all the ingredients. [Facebook]