Facebook puts friends above publishers in “News Feed Values” and ranking change

ter the conservative trends fiasco, Facebook is pushing itself to a new standard of transparency. The company is publishing a formal “News Feed Values” document that details how it decides what shows up in your feed — a common question amongst users.

Those core values are that friends and family come first, that the feed should inform and entertain, that Facebook is a platform for all ideas, that authentic communication beats spam, that you have the controls to hide or highlight what you want, and that Facebook will keep iterating to improve the experience.

Facebook is also making a feed ranking change today that literally puts its primary value that “Friends and family come first” into practice. The News Feed will now show posts from friends higher up in the feed than posts from Pages like news outlets. Pages should expect a decline in reach and referral traffic, especially if they rely on clicks directly to their posts rather than re-shares by their followers.

While the News Feed is ranked by a computer algorithm, Facebook’s Adam Mosseri explains “News Feed is a system that’s designed and built by people, those people have values, and those values are reflected in how we make decisions on a regular basis.” By publicly solidifying those values, users may gain faith that Facebook doesn’t have ulterior motives when deciding the best content to show them.

Human Feels, Algorithmic Ideals

Facebook chooses from between thousands of potential stories when building your News Feed each day. It could never show you everything. Even though people spend an average of 50 minutes a day across Facebook’s properties, there’s far more content than would fit.


A rough equation of how Facebook calculates what to show in the News Feed

In fact, choosing what appears is getting tougher over time since more users and publishers are joining the social network, and they’re sharing more frequently. The competition for space leads to an inevitable decrease in reach for any particular piece of content, stirring allegations that Facebook purposefully picks stories that will earn it money, or that it’s maliciously pushing Pages to pay for ads in order to get seen.

But in reality, Facebook’s goal first and foremost is to create a feed that keeps people satisfied — both quantitatively in terms of the volume of their engagement measured in clicks and time spent, but also qualitatively according to surveys it’s constantly serving to a sample of users.

Mosseri, who’s been working on Facebook’s News Feed for much of its near-10 year existence, sat down with reporters at Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters last week to discuss how the feed works, and how the company’s values determine how it evolves.

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