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Facebook makes friends a priority in the News Feed

13 January 2018

Zuckerberg said late on Thursday the world's largest social network would adjust its centerpiece News Feed to prioritize what friends and family share, while reducing the amount of non-advertising content from publishers and brands. But business was good. If Zuckerberg's statement on Friday is to be believed, he's made a decision to de-emphasise some of the business strategies that make Facebook mountains of cash and reimagine Facebook as a place for friends once again.

Matt Navarra, director of social media at technology news site The Next Web, said people who used the platform to connect with friends and family were the "biggest victor out of this" but added that brands that relied heavily on Facebook for audience would be anxious about how it affected their ability to generate revenue. "And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard - it should encourage meaningful interactions between people".

"This is recognition of the issues they've faced with toxic content", said Brian Wieser, an analyst at Pivotal Research Group.

Changes to Facebook's News Feed may have an impact on major suppliers of news and other content. That means a news hound can choose to highlight news articles, for instance.

"By making these changes, I expect the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down", Zuckerberg wrote.

But the changes may spell trouble for the ecosystem of companies that have come to rely on Facebook's platform - including news organizations, bloggers and businesses - as a way to reach potential customers and readers.

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Once again, Zuckerberg is pointing towards some sort of return to the old Facebook. It's likely you'll still see news articles or even notifications about good deals prominently on your feed, as long as they're posted by your friends. And it's like June 2016, when Facebook again said it would push posts from friends higher up in the feed, because "Facebook was built on the idea of connecting people with their friends and family".

There are many tight-knit communities around TV shows and sports teams.

He added, though, that the prevalence of short-form news clips may make way for longer-form footage, adding: "One of the things we will see is a lot more viral video and less viral clickbait".

The company also faces pressure from regulators in the USA and overseas, and a growing backlash from academics, lawmakers and even early executives and investors about the ways in which social media may be leaving us depressed, isolated, bombarded by online trolls and addicted to our phones. But no, that isn't happening in this update.

Facebook's announcement Thursday that it would deprioritize articles and videos may not have come as a surprise to most publishers, but it will nearly certainly put a scare into them, even if it is not yet clear what the effect will be.

While he acknowledges that Facebook may never be completely free of malign influences, Zuckerberg says that the company now makes "too many errors enforcing our policies and preventing the misuse of our tools". Maybe he'll prove us wrong with this change, but for now, we're going to flag this as fake news.

Facebook makes friends a priority in the News Feed