Facebook Kills Feed Highlights. Time To Declare News Feed Optimization Dead? (Updated)

I knew something was missing from the Facebook homepage for the past few days but not until this morning did I realize what was now absent: highlights. For those unaware of what feed highlights were, they were supposed to be the most relevant stories for a user. I noticed more recently that many of the feed stories weren’t very relevant to me and apparently many other users realized the same thing because now they’re gone.

At one point Facebook’s feed was a filtered system which automatically determined which stories were more relevant but with the Twitterfication of Facebook the feed has since become completely open. The only feed filters are friend lists and applications but if you want to find the most “relevant” feed stories you’re going to have to look elsewhere. FriendFeed has figured out their own model for determining relevant stories and so far they are the only company to maintain such technology.

As for that whole news feed optimization thing, it appears that Facebook is going to leave that up to other developers. With the open stream, developers can theoretically develop their own optimization technologies for determining the most relevant content for a user. The most recent train of thought appears to be to let users determine what content is most relevant through their own custom filters.

Facebook calls them “friend lists” and services like TweetDeck use groups instead. Whatever you want to call the filters, it appears that all of the feed filtering work has been left to the user. I’m honestly a bit confused by this model because isn’t the future of feeds about finding what information is most relevant to the user? There’s now two types of relevance: search relevance and feed relevance.

While users should have the option to view unfiltered feeds, I’d think that an auto-filter would make a lot of sense. Am I the only one that misses Facebook displaying relevant feed stories? Wasn’t the mystery behind Facebook’s feed optimization part of the intrigue?

Many users are saying that they still see highlights. For me, highlights are gone from my homepage completely. I’ve reached out to Facebook to receive clarification on the issue.

Update 2
Facebook replied to say that I was part of a test which was why not all users are seeing it.