Facebook is rolling out a dramatic redesign of its central feature, the News Feed
If you’ve noticed some changes on your Facebook News Feed this morning – don’t panic, you haven’t accidentally hit the wrong settings.
The changes to the News Feed are part of a major overhaul planned by the Californian social network.
Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg says Facebook users can expect to see a series of changes in the design of the world’s largest social network in the coming months.
Zuckerberg, who is estimated to have a fortune in excess of £55 billion thanks to the hugely-successful social network, shared the news in a sweeping post on Facebook.
The 33-year-old said the company would change the filter for the News Feed to prioritise what friends and family share, while reducing the amount of non-advertising content from publishers and brands.
Multi-billionaire CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the changes in a social media post
Facebook, which also owns four of the most popular smartphone apps in the world including Instagram and WhatsApp, previously prioritised material its complex algorithms believed users would engage with through comments and Likes.
However, that is no longer the goal for the News Feed, which is often the centrepiece of users’ experience on Facebook.
“I’m changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions,” Zuckerberg revealed in his social media post.
“We’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content – posts from businesses, brands and media – is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other.
“It’s easy to understand how we got here. Video and other public content have exploded on Facebook in the past couple of years.
“Since there’s more public content than posts from your friends and family, the balance of what’s in News Feed has shifted away from the most important thing Facebook can do – help us connect with each other.”
The shift away from content from publishers and brands will likely trigger a drop in the amount of time people spend on Facebook in the short term, the Facebook CEO admitted.
However, Zuckerberg says the changes will be better for users and for the business over the long term.
“At its best, Facebook has always been about personal connections,” Zuckerberg concludes.
“By focusing on bringing people closer together – whether it’s with family and friends, or around important moments in the world – we can help make sure that Facebook is time well spent.”
Advertising on the social network would be unaffected by the changes, John Hegeman, a Facebook vice president, said in a recent interview.
Facebook and its social media competitors have been inundated by criticism that their products reinforce users’ views on social and political issues and lead to addictive viewing habits, raising questions about possible regulation and the businesses’ long-term viability.
The California-based company has been criticised for algorithms that may have prioritised misleading news and misinformation in people’s feeds, influencing the 2016 American presidential election and EU referendum in the UK.
Last year, Facebook disclosed that Russian agents had used the network to spread inflammatory posts to polarise the American electorate.
Congress is expected to hold more hearings this month, questioning the role social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter Inc and Alphabet Inc’s YouTube play in spreading propaganda.
Zuckerberg said an overhaul of the company’s products, beginning with changes to the algorithms that control the News Feed, would help to address those concerns.
Similar changes will be made to other Facebook-owned products in the coming months, he said.
With more than 2 billion monthly users, Facebook is the world’s largest social media network.
It is also among the world’s largest corporations, reporting £26 billion in revenue, mostly from advertising, during the 12 months that ended on September 30th.
A shift away from non-ad content produced by businesses is a potentially severe blow to news organisations, many of which use Facebook to drive readership, but Zuckerberg said many such posts have been unhealthy.
“Some news helps start conversations on important issues. But too often today, watching video, reading news or getting a page update is just a passive experience,” he wrote.