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“The biggest change to News Feed since 2013”: Facebook is making it easy to bypass its algorithm

Not everyone is a fan of the Facebook News Feed algorithm. 

The algorithm ranks available posts that can display on a user’s News Feed based on various parameters known only to Facebook, and what the algo deems most relevant, the user might not.

In a tacit acknowledgment of this problem, the company is now considering adding tabs to the News Feed so users can choose to see it in chronological order, rather than as determined by the algorithm.

Reverse engineering specialist Jane Manchun Wong discovered this recent development in the Facebook for Android code. The screenshots show tabs for Relevant, Recent and Seen above the News Feed. 

While it’s still possible to sort a feed chronologically by Recent, the option is currently buried in the sidebar and even if chosen, reverts to normal within a day. The Seen feed (posts previously viewed) has been only available on desktop, using the largely unknown URL facebook.com/seen.

Menlo Park is now bringing these front and center in the user experience, and Facebook’s Alexandru Voica shortly confirmed Jane’s findings.

A Facebook spokesperson also confirmed to TechCrunch that it has been testing the feature internally, and is considering an external test now.

“If Facebook officially rolls it out, it could make the social network feel more dynamic and alive as it’d be easier to access Most Recent to view what’s happening in real time,” says Josh Constine, Editor-At-Large for TechCrunch.

The tabbed interface would be the biggest change to News Feed since 2013 when Facebook announced but later scrapped the launch of a multi-feed with side bar options for just exploring Music, Photos, Close Friends and more.”

Of course, offering simpler ways to sort the feed would keep users scrolling longer. At a time when Instagram is seeing 20x more interactions than Facebook, it might be one of the leading determinants for Facebook to consider making such a major interface change.

Increasing time spent across the feeds would also help boost Facebook’s ad views. Slowing profit growth has been a major concern lately, leading to a shares slump.

Whatever the reasons, for many users this would be a welcome move. And publishers too would be less dependent on the whims of Facebook, and reach their followers more effectively through a chronological feed.

To many, Facebook’s algorithm can feel like an inscrutable black box that decides their content destiny. Feed it the wrong signals with pity Likes or guilty-pleasure video views and it can get confused about what you want. Facebook may finally deem us mature enough to have readily available controls over what we see.

Josh Constine, Editor-At-Large for TechCrunch

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