How does the Facebook newsfeed work?

The Facebook newsfeed is intended to act as a ‘personal newspaper’ for each user. Yet everyday, the average persons newsfeed could contain 1,500 different stories. Facebook filters that to a maximum of 20pc of possible stories. So how do they come up with the posts that you see everyday?

There are a vast array of factors that go in to the Facebook algorithm. Some are more obvious – like advertiser needs – and others involve complex equations looking at your relationship with a user, your likelihood to view their stories and your ‘real like’ relationship. That’s right – if you appear in photos with the user, or are tagged in check-ins together, then you’ll see more of each other online too, thanks to Facebook’s selection algo.

Facebook have been toying with this feature for years. It’s critical to their user engagement, and the time we spend on their site. For a while, they were literally manually updating feeds on user feedback. A turn of a dial here equalled more photos, a press of a button there leading to more video.

Now it’s more complex. Until very recently, a page refresh was a quick way to get access to the newest stories. However, the social network giant has found that engagement comes from proximity to people you care about. So at their big newsfeed unveil yesterday – where they announced a host of new changes, they talked about a focus on the friends that you really care about.

Fortunately it’s no longer 2007 and we all no longer have 1,000 ‘friends’. However despite the average friend count decreasing, it remains evident that we only really care about a subset of our online friends. Despite its huge growth, Facebook can’t defeat the laws of social engagement after all.

Therefore, Facebook is now focussing on delivering the stories that you are more likely to care about, even if they are a few hours old. Freshness of the news is not the be all end all on Facebook, which highlights the key difference verses a news network like Twitter.

Now Facebook looks at your last 50 interactions. This includes the brands you actually engage with, the friends you actually talk to and the updates you typically like. The result? An immediate 5pc spike in likes per post viewed and 13pc more engagement on the feed. For a site as optimised as Facebook, this is hugely impressive and a marked improvement.

Of course, your feed will continue to feature lots of ads. In the post-IPO environment, this will not change. However, the way Facebook compiles your newsfeed is changing, and judged on the users response, it’s changing for the better.