Facebook has ditched a controversial feature that split users' news feeds in two - one with ads and original posts from friends, and another for content from publishers. Users had to click an 'Explore Feed' button to access unpromoted posts from publishers.
In October, Facebook began testing Explore Feed (opens in new tab) with users in Sri Lanka, Guatemala, Bolivia, Cambodia, Serbia and Slovakia. It was also available as an option for users in other countries.
In a statement to the Guardian (opens in new tab), Facebook said: “People have told us they want an easier way to see posts from friends and family, so we are testing two separate feeds, one as a dedicated space with posts from friends and family and another as a dedicated space for posts from Pages.”
However, the change went down badly; engagement with Facebook pages tumbled, and its implementation without consultation with stakeholders was described as "downright Orwellian (opens in new tab)".
In a blog post (opens in new tab), Adam Mosseri, head of News Feed at Facebook, admitted: "In surveys, people told us they were less satisfied with the posts they were seeing, and having two separate feeds didn’t actually help them connect more with friends and family."
Now you see me...
Facebook is still tinkering with what you see in your News Feed, but its new aim is to combat fake news rather than make you feel closer to your aunts and uncles.
In January, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook would soon start showing more news stories from local news publishers and friends in an attempt to drown out public posts engineered to stir up unrest.
"Many people told me they thought that if we could turn down the temperature on the more divisive issues and instead focus on concrete local issues, then we'd all make more progress together," he said.
Unfortunately it hasn't turned out as smoothly as Facebook might have hoped, and some small publishers claim the algorithm change has decimated their businesses.
Lifestyle site Little Things (opens in new tab) claimed it had to close after losing 75% of its organic page views – similar to the drop reported by Slovakian journalist Filip Struhárik (opens in new tab) after Explore Feed was implemented in the country.
"[The] 60 biggest Slovak media pages have four times fewer interactions (likes, comments, shares) since the test," Struhárik observed, analysing reports from CloudTangle (a social monitoring company owned by Facebook).
Mark Zuckerberg made it his new year's resolution to clean up the site after the discovery of 470 fake pages and accounts with connections to Russia that bought ads during the 2016 US elections.
Facebook said the ads didn't lean towards either or the two main parties, but instead seemed to be designed to agitate feelings around controversial issues like gun control.
The site has been very public about the changes it's making to turn around its image, and we expect there'll be more announcements soon.
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