How Facebook Tweaks News Feed for Users With Slower Connections

With more and more Facebook users accessing the social network from emerging markets and via slower connections, steps have been taken to optimize those users’ News Feed experiences.

With more and more Facebook users accessing the social network from emerging markets and via slower connections, steps have been taken to optimize those users’ News Feed experiences.

Emerging markets product manager Chris Marra and emerging markets engineering manager Alex Sourov discussed those steps in a Newsroom post, and they include:

  • Factoring in connection speed when determining the types of News Feed stories users see.
  • Prioritizing which stories to load based on users’ connection speeds.
  • Showing previously downloaded stories to users with no connection or extremely poor connections.

Further details from Marra and Sourov follow:

There are many factors we take into account in News Feed to make sure you’re seeing the most relevant stories for you–even the type of device you’re on or the speed of your mobile network or WiFi connection. Taking this into account helps us to determine what kinds of stories to show you in News Feed. For example, if you are on a slower Internet connection that won’t load videos, News Feed will show you fewer videos and more status updates and links.

In order to simplify the way we distinguish between different types of networks, we developed an open-sourced Network Connection Class, which is a way for us to determine how fast your connection is. With recent updates, we can now start retrieving more stories and photos while you are reading News Feed on slower connections to make sure stories are always available as you keep scrolling. So if you are reading a post from your friend about their weekend, but doing so on a slower connection, we will load more stories while you’re reading so they are ready for you when you’re done reading that post.

If you are on a poor Internet connection and your News Feed is loading slowly, we will first download the story you’re currently looking at, rather than download a series of News Feed stories. For example, if you are looking at a photo your friend posted or a photo from a page you’ve liked that isn’t fully downloaded, we prioritize that photo over loading a story below it that you aren’t currently looking at, so you can see the most important photos you’re viewing as quickly as possible.

Even though we load stories from previous visits to News Feed, we don’t re-retrieve these stories that you have already seen, so we aren’t wasting more data. However, if something about the story has changed—for example, if the number of comments and likes has changed or if the post was deleted—we will make updates when you see the story again.

They also mentioned that the progressive JPEG technology Facebook introduced for its iOS application in January, which speeds up image display, is now in use on the social network’s Android app, as well.

Readers: What are your thoughts on Facebook’s efforts to improve the experiences of users with slower connections?

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Image of frustrated man with cell phone courtesy of Shutterstock.

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