Facebook is about to get a much better idea of what you do and don’t like in your News Feed — even if you don’t click the like button. The company is about to start measuring how long you look posts, photos, and comments in your feed. The thinking is, if you linger on a status update and read a couple of comments, you probably are interested in that content. And if you’re interested in that update, your friends would probably like to see it as well.
With the new algorithm in place — it’s rolling out over the next few weeks — stories will be promoted in your News Feed not only if they are highly liked, commented on, or shared, but also if your friends happen to be spending time actually reading and looking at those posts. But, thankfully, Facebook isn’t just using a universal scale to determine what counts as reading an update and what counts as scrolling right past it. Instead, the software will see how long you look at certain stories compared to others. If you linger on one post for five times longer than another, it’s likely that you found it engaging.
The company says it decided to incorporate time data after performing research to improve News Feed. In a blog post written by software engineers Ansha Yu and Sami Tas, researchers say they learned that “just because someone didn’t like, comment or share a story in their News Feed doesn’t mean it wasn’t meaningful to them.” They added, “There are times when, for example, people want to see information about a serious current event, but don’t necessarily want to like or comment on it.” For those of us who don’t routinely use the like button, that probably doesn’t seem like a terribly profound discovery. Nevertheless, it’s good that Facebook’s finally taking note.