In its continuing efforts to connect the ‘next billion users’, Facebook has yet again tweaked its News Feed. The idea behind the update is for the News Feed to show new and relevant stories even when the internet connection is slow. The update introduces what Facebook calls ‘client-side ranking’ that weighs “both new stories from the server and unseen stories from the persistent cache,” and serve stories that a user will be more interested in reading. Also Read - Facebook smartwatch to feature cameras alongside fitness functions: Yes, detachable cameras!Also Read - What happens to your Facebook account after you die?
“Over the past several months, we’ve continued working toward this goal of efficiently decoupling the News Feed experience from the strength of a network connection so that people see relevant stories more quickly without waiting for slow load times. We are now launching an update to News Feed’s client architecture that builds upon that foundation to more efficiently show people stories in feed,” Facebook’s blog post reads. Also Read - WhatsApp Multi-device support confirmed, public beta rollout begins in two months: Mark Zuckerberg
With the update, the News Feed will now rank stories directly on the app, instead of waiting to hear from the server. This is now possible because of the increased computing prowess of today’s mobile devices. Now Facebook will only rank and cache stories on the News Feed that have all the media content like images, video, and link previews. Other stories that have some missing content will be ranked lower, even if they are newer. By doing this, Facebook wants to avoid users seeing the buffering spinners or gray boxes.
So essentially when you fire up the app and scroll through your News Feed, the app will send a request to the server for the ‘next best story’. It then ranks the story based on what content is available, and then taking into account the internet speed, the algorithm scores and sorts all the stories, and gives you the top one based on all of that.
This update is an improvement over the News Feed tweak Facebook introduced about a year back. The previous tweak would show certain stories even when the connection was slow. This was done via ‘server-side ranking’ where batches of pre-ranked stories were sent to the app, which would be cached and immediately show up if and when the connection slowed. But the issue here was when the connection speeds dropped, users would sometimes see older (less relevant) content since there were no new stories coming in from the server. While this is okay, if there is absolutely no connection, but it could be a bit frustrating if the connection is just slower than usual.
With the focus on getting the ‘next billion users’ connected, Facebook has taken a lot of steps to tweak its app to work in conditions where network connection may not be optimum. Recently, Facebook revealed that India is a very important market for the company, where it is seeing user growth faster than the rest of the world. India hosts more than 155 million monthly active Facebook users, of which 77 million are active daily. But the numbers worth noting is that Facebook in India has 147 million mobile monthly active users, of which 73 million are daily active users. With India in mind, Facebook has introduced various initiatives like 2G Tuesday, and also introduced features like Facebook Lite, Messenger Lite, and offline mode among others. ALSO READ: 9 ways Facebook customized itself for India