Facebook: Algorithms Are ‘Trending’ Over People

Move over, humans: The machines are taking over, at least when it comes to populating Facebook’s Trending feature.

Move over, humans: The machines are taking over, at least when it comes to populating Facebook’s Trending feature.

The social network announced in a Newsroom post Friday that descriptions for Trending topics are being eliminated, removing the burden of writing descriptions for those Trending topics from its employees.

Users will now see a list of Trending topics, and hovering over them or clicking on them will bring users to content on those topics.

Humans are not out of the picture altogether, as Facebook wrote in the Newsroom post:

There are still people involved in this process to ensure that the topics that appear in Trending remain high-quality–for example, confirming that a topic is tied to a current news event in the real world. The topic #lunch is talked about during lunchtime every day around the world, but it will not be a trending topic. These changes mean that we no longer need to do things like write topic descriptions and short story summaries, since we’re relying on an algorithm to pull excerpts directly from news stories. Our team will still strictly follow our guidelines, which have been updated to reflect these changes.

The social network also provided more details on why it decided to make this change:

Our goal is to enable Trending for as many people as possible, which would be hard to do if we relied solely on summarizing topics by hand. A more algorithmically driven process allows us to scale Trending to cover more topics and make it available to more people globally over time. This is something we always hoped to do but we are making these changes sooner given the feedback we got from the Facebook community earlier this year.

As before, articles and posts that appear in search results are surfaced algorithmically, based on a high volume of mentions and a sharp increase in mentions over a short period of time.

Like much of the content you see across Facebook, the list of topics you see is still personalized based on a number of factors, including pages you’ve liked, your location (e.g., home state sports news), the previous Trending topics with which you’ve interacted and what is Trending across Facebook overall.

Readers: What are your thoughts on the changes to Facebook’s Trending feature?


david.cohen@adweek.com David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.