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Facebook is preparing for a major overhaul of its main feed to turn it into a “discovery engine” geared towards video content, based on a newly leaked internal memo.

The memo, written by Head of Facebook Tom Alison, was first sent to employees on April 27, though it was only recently obtained and published by The Verge. This suggests the changes to the main feed may be coming sooner rather than later, however, the memo does not give a date for the update to arrive.

What Is a Discovery Engine?

It may seem like corporate jargon, but the move towards being a ‘discovery engine’ indicates a major change in priorities for how Facebook’s main feed functions.

In general, the term ‘discovery engine’ simply refers to helping users find more interesting content from accounts or pages they are not connected to. What makes this such a big change is that Facebook has always focused on content shared by connections like friends and family.

This opens the door for Facebook to become more of a general content aggregator than the more personal social network it has always been.

Facebook’s Top Three Priorities

In the memo, Alison identifies three near-term priorities that the social network believes will help create a place where people can find and share engaging content. These are:

  • Make Reels successful.
  • Build world-class recommendations technology.
  • Unlock messaging-based sharing.

By focusing on these three goals, the platform aims to expand the ways people publish and share content with each other.

What Will The New Facebook Feed Look Like?

While the memo does not go into many specifics about what the new Facebook feed will look like, The Verge’s Alex Heath spoke with Alison to find out how he is envisioning the new feed experience:

“Here’s how the future Facebook app will work in practice: the main tab will become a mix of Stories and Reels at the top, followed by posts its discovery engine recommends from across both Facebook and Instagram. It’ll be a more visual, video-heavy experience with clearer prompts to direct message friends a post. To make messaging even more prominent, Facebook is working on placing a user’s Messenger inbox at the top right of the app, undoing the infamous decision to separate the two apps eight years ago.”

For the few of you out there who don’t know, Facebook and the other platforms it owns (Instagram and WhatsApp) experienced an outage yesterday, October 4. The outage kept the sites offline for more than six hours after beginning around 10:30 AM Monday morning. 

Apparently, the problem was made even worse as Facebook’s own internal tools and communication systems went down at the same time, making it even harder for engineers to address and fix the problem.

Now, we are learning what caused the outages as Facebook and its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, apologize for the interruption to its services.

Why Did Facebook Go Offline?

According to official statements from the company, Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp went down Monday, October 4, 2021, due to an interruption in communication between the company’s data centers. 

This interruption was caused by configuration changes on the routers coordinating traffic between the data centers. These configuration changes brought about a disruption in network traffic that cascaded into a complete service shutdown.

As the company explained:

“Our services are now back online and we’re actively working to fully return them to regular operations. We want to make clear at this time we believe the root cause of this outage was a faulty configuration change.”

Mark Zuckerberg himself posted a brief personal apology, which states:

“Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger are coming back online now. Sorry for the disruption today — I know how much you rely on our services to stay connected with the people you care about.”

Was Any User Data Compromised?

Throughout the outage, rumors swirled that the disruption was the result of hackers, DDoS attacks, and numerous other causes. This inevitably also led to speculation that user data had been compromised during the situation.

Despite the rumors, Facebook denied any such issues:

“We also have no evidence that user data was compromised as a result of this downtime.”

How Advertisers Are Effected

Since the outage also made it impossible to actually run any ads across the company’s platforms, Facebook says it will not charge advertisers for any campaigns running during the outage time.

Now that services are back online, the company says ads should be running as normal. In some situations, the company may even enable accelerated delivery to make up for potential lost reach.

What Can Be Learned

Obviously, outages like this are entirely out of most of our hands. Still, there is one thing we can take away from the Great Facebook Outage of 2021: diversify your online presence. 

Brands who exclusively or primarily drive traffic through their Facebook and Instagram pages found themselves almost entirely at a loss for most of yesterday. Those who were already established on multiple platforms, however, were able to pivot their focus and even take advantage of the service disruption.

Facebook is making big changes to how it ranks and shows videos in the news feed and “More Videos” section of its platform with three new ranking factors for videos. 

While the changes shouldn’t impact the number of videos Facebook is showing overall, the company says it is hoping to better prioritize original videos and content that people are actively looking for.

New Ranking Factors For Facebook Videos

To better sort and rank videos, Facebook is implementing three new ranking factors for videos on its platform:

  • Loyalty and Intent – Facebook will begin boosting the ranking signals of videos that people return to and view repeatedly.
  • Video and viewing duration – Facebook will begin to prioritize videos that keep users engaged for longer periods of times. This will look at both how long a video is (with videos over 3 minutes long receiving the biggest boost) and how long viewers have watched the video on average.
  • Originality – In an effort to cut down on the presence of repurposed or stolen content, Facebook will begin to strongly limit the reach and monetization for unoriginal videos.

In the announcement, the company stressed that while the changes may hurt those copying content or stealing videos, Pages creating original high-quality content should only see positive effects:

“While there are numerous factors that determine video distribution on Facebook, these changes will benefit video distribution for Pages that create original content people want to watch and come back to.”

Days before Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is set to testify to Congress about the social network’s role in allowing Cambridge Analytica to exploit user data, Facebook is working to make it easy to see if your information was shared with the scandal-plagued analytics firm.

Facebook has published a new section within its help center called “How can I tell if my info was shared with Cambridge Analytica.” You can also quickly find the page by simply searching “Cambridge or Cambridge Analytica” in the Facebook search bar.

If you’re logged into your Facebook account, this page will automatically inform you whether your data was potentially breached by the “This is your digital life” app.

Since information has come to light about how Cambridge Analytica has been potentially misusing user data, the company’s relationship with Facebook has come under scrutiny. In response, the social network has taken several steps to attempt to re-win the public’s trust – such as launching this latest page. It has also introduced a data abuse bounty program that allows users to report app developers that may be misusing data.

Questions will likely remain long after Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony tomorrow, but at least you can now personally check to see whether your personal account details are safe or have been exploited.

Facebook’s experiment with the “Explore Feed” – where organic content from brands and publishers was hidden away in a second feed – has come to an unceremonious early end.

After less than four months, the social platform has announced the Explore Feed has been discontinued after early feedback showed that “people don’t want two separate feeds.”

The concept was one of Facebook’s biggest recent changes designed to prioritize content from friends and family (and paid advertisers) over content published by liked Pages. While users initially seemed excited at the possibility of decluttering their feeds, the actual implementation went largely unnoticed – except by businesses relying on organic reach to market their brands on Facebook.

In the face of continuously declining organic reach in recent years, the second feed felt like the final nail in the coffin for brands who have so-far refused to buy into Facebook’s ad platform.

All of this came together to make users unhappy with the separate feed. Facebook says recent user surveys found that users were “less satisfied” with the posts they were seeing, and the second feed failed to make the platform feel any more personal.

Many also felt the change made it harder to find information and that Facebook failed to explain the change to users. For example, it was unclear the second feed was just a test until it had been shut down.

“We’re acting on this feedback by updating the way we evaluate where to test new products, and how we communicate about them,” writes Facebook in its announcement.

Don’t think this setback will change Facebook’s direction, though. In its announcement, the company reiterated its commitment to prioritizing “meaningful social interactions” and reducing the reach of non-paying Pages. The announcement goes as far as plainly saying “those changes mean less public content in News Feed like posts from businesses, brands, and media.”

In an attempt to breathe some life into their version of ‘Stories’, Facebook is expanding the feature to all pages – rather than just individual users.

This means brands can now start sharing Stories too all their friends and followers, though it’s unclear whether businesses will take Facebook up on the offer.

Since launching the Snapchat-like feature on Facebook earlier this year, Stories have largely been ignored by most users. Compared to Instagram or Snapchat, Facebook has struggled to find the right place or utility for their own version of the feature and many have forgotten the feature exists at all.

Rather than admitting their failure, the massive social platform is doubling down in hopes that they can encourage more users to share their own stories by letting brands take the lead. Presumably, the hope is that users will follow more influential pages’ leads and boost the number of Stories being shared.

According to Facebook, the expansion has actually been in high-demand recently. Product manager Amy Sun says users have been clamoring for more ways to share and engage in the feature.

”We’ve been listening to our community and working to make it fast, fun and easy for people and Pages to create Stories on Facebook. Over the coming month, Pages will be able to create Stories to share with the people who follow them.”

It is entirely possible that this move will allow Facebook Stories to finally find their audience and take off as a legitimate way to engage with your friends and followers. However, it feels likely that Stories are just not a natural fit for Facebook and may never see similar levels of popularity as on Snapchat, where the idea originated.

Facebook Reactions

Remember when Facebook Likes meant everything when it came to getting exposure on the largest social network in the world? Well, these days it’s all about Loves. Or more specifically, Reactions.

Facebook has announced it is now giving more exposure to posts that get more Reactions – Love, Haha, Wow, Sad, or Angry – rather than those with more Likes. For now, all reactions are equally weighted, but they will boost the visibility more than the traditional blue thumbs-up.

“Over the past year we’ve found that if people leave a reaction on a post, it is an even stronger signal that they’d want to see that type of post than if they left a Like on the post,” according to Facebook. “So we are updating News Feed to weigh reactions a little more than Likes when taking into account how relevant the story is to each person.”

The decision makes sense. Compared to the variety of reactions available on Facebook, Liking a post is seemingly increasingly apathetic or neutral. All it takes is a simple click to show vague support of something you see on your wall. Meanwhile, users have to take the time to specifically select the reaction that more accurately reflects their feelings.

Reactions were launched by Facebook just over a year ago, but they’ve quickly become a big part of the platform. According to Facebook’s data, Reactions have been used more than 300 billion times by users since their release.

Instant Articles

Facebook is bringing its Instant Articles to all developers and content producers. The social media platform has been slowly testing its feature, which allows publishers to share content on Facebook mobile that is fast-loading and easy to read.

During Facebook’s F8 conference, the company announced that publishers of any size or kind can now publish via Instant Articles while also sharing some statistics showing how Instant Articles have been performing so far.

According to Facebook’s data, Instant Articles leads to

  • 20% more clicks on links to content
  • 70% reduced likelihood of abandoning content once clicking on it.
  • 30% more shares compared to the average mobile web articles.

Instant Articles are Facebook’s response to Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages and other fast-loading content platforms that streamline pages to ensure they load almost instantaneously on mobile devices. Facebook’s Instant Articles are unique though, because they also allow publishers to control ad placements within their content.

Publishers can even publish native ads as Instant Articles, which are distinguished from traditional content through unique styling options and the ability to add your company’s logo.

“Facebook’s goal is to connect people to the stories, posts, videos or photos that matter most to them,” the company says. “Opening up Instant Articles will allow any publisher to tell great stories, that load quickly, to people all over the world. With Instant Articles, they can do this while retaining control over the experience, their ads and their data.”

FacebookClick

Facebook is changing its mind on branded content, though it isn’t ready to completely dive in. The social media giant is revising its policy on branded content, which is anything that specifically “mentions or features a third party product, brand, or sponsor.”

With the latest change, Facebook is allowing any verified page to share branded content, however, the content must be labeled as such. This is a significant turn from the company’s previous stance against branded content and ads.

To help brands with verified pages label their branded content, Facebook is also offering a new tool to assist in tagging brands mentioned in the content. The company says the tool must be used every time branded content is published.

By changing their policy, Facebook is allowing companies with existing partnerships or sponsorships to bring their relationship into the world’s largest social network.

Notably, branded content can also be pushed via sponsored posts or leveraged in paid ads. The company says the new tool will hopefully lead to greater transparency while continuing to help users find valuable information.

When a brand is tagged in a piece of branded content, they will also receive access to post insights and can share the boosted post themselves.

While this is a notable change, Facebook still has some restrictions. Here is what Facebook will still not allow:

“…our branded content guidelines prohibit overly promotional features, such as persistent watermarks and pre-roll advertisements. Additionally, cover photos and profile pictures must not feature third party products, brands, or sponsors. Branded content integrations that are allowed to be posted on Facebook include content like product placement, endcards, and marketer’s logos.”

Before long, Facebook’s video service is going to look a lot like YouTube. Facebook announced several new features to their mobile app that will seem very familiar to YouTube users and will make videos an even larger part of the Facebook platform than before.

Among the features is the new ability to collapse videos into a floating window, so you can browsing your Facebook seamlessly while you watch a video. The change will make watching videos on the platform less of an interruption and more a part of the experience.

Facebook is also testing implementing a new list of recommended videos to watch next after users finish watching a video. If you don’t see something that piques your interest, you can also look in the all new dedicated Facebook video feed, where you’ll find nothing but user shared videos.

The dedicated video feed acts much like your normal News Feed, but exclusively for video and can be found by tapping the “Videos” icon along the bottom navigation menu of the Facebook app.

Videos-section-800x450

If you see something you think you might want to watch, but can’t at the immediate moment for some reason, you can now save it for later, allowing you to easily return when you are someplace more suitable for watching video. All your saved videos can be easily found in the “Saved” bookmark in the menu.

Facebook is still working out the kinks on most of these new features, so don’t expect them to be rolled out too soon. Instead, it appears the new features will see a slow testing and rollout phase, with no telling when we will see a full launch.