How Facebook chooses what shows up in your feed

facebookEver wondered what sort of sorcery Facebook uses to determine what posts you see? As a part of today’s press event, the company lifted the lid a little bit on its News Feed algorithm and revealed some of the behind-the-scenes machinery that powers what you find when you log in.

As it turns out, the company has moved away from EdgeRank, its previous post ranking system, and plans to do a better job of making its changes to the News Feed public so that people can understand why story content they might be accustomed to seeing isn’t showing up more often.

The company has been notoriously secretive about how its algorithms determine what you see and what you don’t, which has left business users and consumers scratching their heads at times about how the company chooses when to display their stories.

According to a report by AllThingsD, Facebook says it’s trying to navigate a thorny landscape with two different constituencies, each with their own concerns.

“There’s a fundamental tension here because, on the consumer side, people are going to use the News Feed for some number of minutes a day, but not all items can possibly or conceivably be consumed,” Facebook’s VP of Product Chris Cox said at today’s press briefing. “On the other side, you have publishers who ask ‘Why aren’t people seeing my stuff all the time?’”

According to a post by the company to its business blog, there are an average of 1500 items that Facebook can use to populate a user’s news feed at any given time, and Facebook needs to be prudent about what it chooses to keep users interested.

At a press event today, the company announced that it would be taking some of the secrecy out of how it’s handling the news feed. From here on out, changes will be published to Facebook’s fairly new blog for businesses, with an explanation for why they’re being made.

In addition, Facebook let slip a few key tidbits about how stories are chosen to show up in a user’s news feed.

First, according to The Next Web, EdgeRank is deader than disco. The tech that had been one of the engines behind the news feed is no longer relevant. In its place, the new news feed algorithm (which lacks a snazzy name) focuses on slightly different factors than the traditional affinity, weight, and time decay of EdgeRank.

While Facebook isn’t releasing exact details, here are some of the factors they say will contribute to whether or not a particular post will show up on a user’s news feed, according to the company’s business blog:

  • 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

Here’s an animated version of how that works, recorded by Ken Yeung of The Next Web:

This new push toward transparency on Facebook’s part is great news, both for basic consumers as well as people who rely on Pages to drive traffic to their brand. If nothing else, it will help give a bit more context to how people answer the question: “didn’t you see what I posted on Facebook?”

Previously on GeekWire: Facebook’s ‘story bumping’ and ‘last actor’ features will change your News Feed

  • Mike Christensen

    “…but not all items can possibly or conceivably be consumed,”

    What? Says who?

  • Catherine Morgan

    Is it possible that facebook doesn’t show posts in the newsfeed that are complaints about companies that are their advertisers? Example: I posted about an incident with Capital One and linked to a post on my blog about it. But even though it showed up on my timeline, it only showed up in my news feed sporadically, and then not at all. I deleted the post a few hours later when it wasn’t getting any traction, and re-posted it. The same thing happened. Just seems odd that this never happened with any of my health and wellness posts.