Take a look at your Facebook page today, if you’re a user, and let us know if you laughed or smashed your screen. Facebook has changed its look, adding a “top story” listing of the newest postings by your online friends, and the reaction is … well, mixed.
“Starting today, it will be easier to keep up with the people in your life no matter how frequently or infrequently you’re on Facebook,” wrote Mark Tonkelowitz, an engineering manager at Facebook, in a post on the company’s blog.
The idea, Facebook says, is that if you’ve been away from the site for a few days, you won’t be in danger of missing the most important posts friends put up. Though Facebook isn’t offering many details on how its software will figure out which posts are most likely to be of interest to you, and keep them up at the top of the page.
“We use a variety of things to decide whether a story might be interesting or important,” said a Facebook spokesperson in an email. “For example, this may include changes about your employer, school, relationship status or city, as well as things like the number of likes or comments on a post. For example, if a friend’s posts get dozens of comments or likes, it’s likely to be a top story.”
“News Feed will act more like your own personal newspaper,” said Tonkelowitz. “You won’t have to worry about missing important stuff. All your news will be in a single stream with the most interesting stories featured at the top.”
There are other changes:
Do you like what you see? On Facebook’s blog this morning, people were voting against the changes by a two-to-one margin. One annoyed comment: “Quite frankly I don’t want Facebook deciding who is most important in my life. I want my news feed to just go chronologically and if I want to hide posts from someone, I will. Stop changing.”
The “top story” on my own page was a one-liner from an old college friend: “Packing my FB bags and headed for Google+. This sucks.”
Actually, it will now be easier for him to do that. Google+, the social-networking service Google launched over the summer, is now open to anyone who wants to join. In its start-up phase, one could only join if invited by someone who already belonged. The strategy worked: in its first month Google+ claimed 20 million members.
Google “created a bit of a feeding frenzy that I think surprised a lot of us,” said Rob Enderle, a California-based technology analyst. “In a way they used social engineering to create initial demand and that was new to them.”
It’s natural for people to react negatively when there’s a change made to something with which they were comfortable; think how you react when a friend shows up with new glasses. In the meantime, Facebook will have to put up with comments like this:
“Facebook, you’re not near as smart as you think you are,” wrote a user from Texas. “Your algorithms for deciding what I want to see, who I want to talk to or what I think is important are 99.999% of the time the exact polar opposite of what I want.”
A staffer here at Nightline suggested adding the informal ballot below. Please feel free to click on it, or add a comment at bottom.