Facebook is changing its News Feed algorithm to prioritize posts from friends and family. The social network said the alteration will ensure users don't miss the updates they care about most by putting them at the top of their feeds.
When the update rolls out, which will happen "over the coming weeks," expect to see more pictures of babies, weddings, and food, while posts from businesses, publishers, and celebrities will get less exposure. Facebook claims the change is the result of several surveys it carried out that showed people wanted to see more "friend content."
Facebook brought in a similar algorithm change that favored content from friends last year, but it seems that the upcoming update will push this even further. Those who you've chosen to "see first" will be given the highest priority, as will people whose posts you often like or comment on.
"If you tend to like photos from your sister," Facebook VP Adam Mosseri said, "we'll start putting her posts closer to the top of your feed so you won't miss what she posted while you were away."
The posts from the various Pages you follow will be ranked on how informative or entertaining they are; this will be based on factors such as how often you like stories featuring the same subject. The company warned that the change could result in less page traffic for certain businesses on the network.
"Overall, we anticipate that this update may cause reach and referral traffic to decline for some Pages," said Facebook Engineering Director Lars Backstrom. "The specific impact on your Page's distribution and other metrics may vary depending on the composition of your audience. For example, if a lot of your referral traffic is the result of people sharing your content and their friends liking and commenting on it, there will be less of an impact than if the majority of your traffic comes directly through Page posts."
Facebook has noticed that fewer people have been sharing posts recently. The company will be hoping that the update encourages this activity by showing users more of what friends and family are sharing.
While the news may sound bad for publishers who rely on Facebook for traffic, it could ultimately prove to be beneficial. Good content that recieves plenty of shares will reach a larger audience, and annoying clickbait items should appear less often.
The Senate Commerce Committee opened an inquiry into Facebook last month following allegations that it suppressed conservative news stories in its Trending Topics section. The investigation ultimately found no political bias from the company, but it's unclear if the incident has in any way influenced the decision to change the News Feed algorithm.