Facebook unveiled an updated look to its News Feed feature today, a core element of the social networking site’s interface since nearly its start.
From their Menlo Park, California headquarters Thursday morning, the Silicon Valley giants gave journalists and bloggers an overview of the new changes to the site. After, Facebook announced that new changes would start being rolled out immediately. Users of the desktop website will start seeing changes on Thursday, the company confirmed, with mobile and tablet users seeing design changes occurring during the next few weeks.
Zuckerberg has described News Feed as being one of the “Three Pillars of the Facebook ecosystem,” joining the Timeline and Graph Search features. Those elements were rolled out in 2011 and 2013, respectively, with News Feed being one of the more antiquated features of the website — it debuted in 2006. During Thursday’s unveiling, he said he wanted that core element to help bring the most relevant and important information directly to the user.
The new News Feed, said Zuckerberg, will "give everyone in the world the best personalized newspaper in the world.”
Zuckerberg said the News Feed has become primarily about displaying visual content since the number of smart phone users have continued to increase, and that since the end of 2011 “almost 50 percent of the content” is visual. By reorganizing the design, Zuckerberg and company hopes to make a more appealing product that will present customers with better content, both aesthetically and based off of their personal demands.
“How we are all sharing is changing. And the design of your newsfeed needs to reflect this evolving face of News Feed and who you’re sharing with,” he said.
Ahead of the press conference, Facebook only admitted that the unveiling would involve a revamped News Feed, the central stream of postings, photographs and other updates that any particular user can see to check out information relevant to the people, places and businesses they follow, subscribe to or “like.”
Speaking to the Los Angeles Times in advance of the roll-out, one expert says it’s no secret why Facebook is making changes. The News Feed is why people log-on to the site, says Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter, ad any changes that will engage more people there means more money from and for advertisers.
"Allowing feed customization provides Facebook with more information about what users find relevant, allowing better targeting for advertisers. Better targeting means higher revenue per impression or click-through, and translates to overall higher revenue and profits for Facebook,” says Pachter.
During a conference call with analysts earlier this year, Mr. Zuckerberg also stressed the importance of the News Feed. "Advertisers want really rich things like big pictures or videos, and we haven't provided those things historically. But one of the things that we’ve done in the last year, as you've seen, the organic News Feed product that consumers use are moving toward bigger pictures, richer media, and I think you will continue to see it go in that direction," he said in January.
Zuckerberg added then that he wanted the future News Feed to be capable of displaying “more engaging ads” before users. “Have you ever met a real person who has said ‘I'd really like to engage with an ad right now’? Me neither,” says The Telegraph’s technology editor, Shane Richmond. “Still, we shouldn't forget that ads are what keeps Facebook free and, more importantly, in existence, so if you want to use it then you have to accept that Facebook needs to please advertisers just as much, perhaps more, than it needs to please you.”
Previously, the website has insisted that it does not significantly tinker with News Feed configurations to interrupt those posts with sponsored content. "Our goal with News Feed is always to show each individual the most relevant blend of stories that maximizes engagement and interest. There have been recent claims suggesting that our News Feed algorithm suppresses organic distribution of posts in favor of paid posts in order to increase our revenue. This is not true," the company said.