Facebook to push real-time stories to the top of News Feed

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While Twitter users are wringing their hands over the possibility of an algorithmic timeline, Facebook is doing a 180 and adding more real-time stories to your News Feed.

Is anyone else getting whiplash watching these two chase each other back and forth?

Facebook on Thursday said it plans to take into account trending topics and when people like a story to determine what to show you and when to show it. How this will work: When someone posts a status update related to a topic currently trending on Facebook, the network will display the post at the top of your News Feed so you see it sooner. Same goes for types of posts that attract a slew of likes, comments, and shares when they’re first posted, but later drop off. That indicates that the update is timely and should be surfaced to the top of your feed.

“We’ve heard feedback that there are some instances where a post from a friend or a page you are connected to is only interesting at a specific moment, for example when you are both watching the same sports game, or talking about the season premiere of a popular TV show,” software engineer Erich Owens and engineering manager David Vickrey wrote in a Thursday blog post. “There are also times when a post that is a day or two old may not be relevant to you anymore.”

More timely updates might lead to more engagement—early tests show a small, 6 percent uptick in sharing, liking, and commenting on real-time posts.

Facebook continues to experiment with the way it displays News Feed stories in an apparent effort to show you more stuff you want to see—major life events and high-quality news stories—and less of the content you don’t care about. That explains why click-bait and spam have been booted in recent months.

A new emphasis on timely stories seems like a response to Twitter’s firm grasp on real-time events. In this version of News Feed, maybe we’ll see fewer Ice Bucket Challenge videos and more chatter about current events.

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