The algorithm shift is a big change to the core ingredients of
Facebook, one designed to make the world's biggest social network
more relevant to current events, territory that has been staked out
by the much smaller but buzzier Twitter.
The announcement coincides with reports from some publishers
that their referral traffic from Facebook is sharply increasing.
For example, BuzzFeed reported in October that its referrals
from Facebook grew 855% between September 2012 and September
The algorithmic change to expose more links only began rolling
out "very recently," according to a Facebook spokeswoman. However,
it could be a carrot to entice publishers to post even more content
to Facebook, which it's been urging them to do.
The company's recent announcement about massive referral
increases realized by BuzzFeed, TIME and Bleacher Report also
prominently featured the advice for media organizations to increase
the frequency of their Facebook posting.
What's implicit in the change is Facebook striving to make its
news feed more like Twitter's stream -- an invaluable source for
news and analysis. It's the latest in a series of product updates,
such as hashtags and the promotion of public figures to see updates
from on Facebook, that have moved the older social network in its
It also shows a subtle shift in positioning away from the core
utility Facebook once touted above all else: an environment for
people to share personal updates among people they know in the
According to today's blog post:
The goal of news feed is to show the right content to the
right people at the right time whether it's from a close friend or
a news source halfway around the world.
And according to the social network's February 2012 S-1 filing to go public, when it
described the content people visited Facebook for in more mundane
Every day hundreds of millions of people come to Facebook to
find out what their friends have to share—the best new music
they've listened to, photos from their recent honeymoon, who they
plan to vote for in the next election. Each person's experience on
Facebook is unique and completely personalized—akin to
reading a real-time newspaper of stories compiled just for them
that they can carry with them wherever they go.
By surfacing more articles in news feeds, Facebook is making its
billing as a personalized newspaper much more literal. But it also
runs a risk in making its service less personal. For example, an
article posted publicly by someone unknown to a user but that's
been commented on by her Facebook friend is now presumably a lot
likelier to surface in news feed, assuming the article is deemed to
be of "high quality." (Facebook intends to start distinguishing
between high quality articles and meme photos, according to the
But for someone who comes to Facebook expecting baby photos and
musings from friends, the dilution of that personal content in a
stream that contains more news than ever before -- inserted via
tenuous social connections -- might be disconcerting.