In order to make Facebook’s News Feed more accessible to all users, regardless of the speed or reliability of their internet connections, a new change has been begun in the way the stories are being ranked. Fro brands, publishers and marketers who use Facebook, this means speed is more important than ever.
In order to understand the change, we need to first know how the New Feed stories used to be ranked in the past. Before, when somebody visited Facebook, the ranking for all possible News Feed stories were calculated on Facebook’s servers, and then sent to the user in the same exact order that Facebook’s algorithm decided was best. Unfortunately, what the algorithm didn’t take into consideration was the speed or strength of a user’s internet connection. Facebook announced that it was changing News Feed last December that they would be accommodating users who have slower connections, although the ranking of stories was still happening on Facebook’s servers.
This isn’t happening anywhere.
Alexandru Petrescu and Sami Tas, two Facebook engineers, explained this week that they’re able to rank stories on the client side now, after they’ve been sent from the server – as an example, as they appear on your tablet, phone, or computer. They wrote a fairly technical explanation of this on Facebook’s engineering blog. There are two sections that do a good ob of explaining the change in plain language and what it means for publishers and marketers:
In our new architecture, instead of waiting to show new stories until after you’ve seen the stories we already ranked, the next best story is selected from a pool of both new stories from the server and unseen stories from the persistent cache, and then rendered in feed. This happens each time you scroll down one story. Every time the server sends another story, we can rank the story on the client and insert it in the appropriate spot in your News Feed in real time, even on a poor connection.
This means that, rather than ranking all stories while on Facebook’s servers, stories are leaving the servers and are then being placed into a pool of possible content to show in the News Feed. At this point, Facebook is then able to rank them in real time as a user scrolls through the News Feed.
This means, as the blog post explains, speed is more important ever.
This architecture also enables us to surface stories that have been optimized for your connection at the time of your session. For example, slow-loading content gets temporarily down-ranked while it loads because, before we show a story in your News Feed, we check to see whether the media in the story — the image, the video, the link preview, etc. — has been loaded on your device. If it hasn’t, we re-rank the stories on the client and prioritize those that have fully-loaded media.
In the end, the engineers wrap up by saying even though these changes were born from trying to improve Facebook for users in emerging markets, “these updates also will benefit people who typically have strong internet connections, as we all experience less than ideal internet connections at times.”
Check out Facebook’s blog post for more on this change in News Feed infrastructure.