Facebook wants you to read less ‘click-bait’ online and is willing to mess with your Newsfeed to make sure it happens.
The social networking site announced major changes to its algorithms this week aimed at discouraging the spread of “stories with ‘click-bait’ headlines” that “drown out content from friends and Pages that people really care about”.
The site’s data scientists are defining click-bait articles as those with headlines that encourage users to “click to see more, without telling them much information about what they will see” – in other words articles that claim the reader will “never believe what happens next” and the like.
Facebook will work out what is and is not click-bait by measuring the amount of time people spend off the site: if someone follows a link but bounces right back then Facebook figures that the story was under-selling on its headline and was therefore click-bait.
10 facts you didn’t know about Facebook
10 facts you didn’t know about Facebook
Around 350 million photos are uploaded to Facebook every day, with the site estimating in September last year that users had so far put up more than 250 billion images. That’s 4,000 photos uploaded every second and around 4 per cent of all photos ever taken, according to a study by Nokia.
Facebook’s logo is blue because Mark Zuckerberg is red-green colour blind. “Blue is the richest color for me. I can see all of blue," said Zuckerberg in an interview with the New Yorker. The colour is so popular that Facebook’s campus store even sells nail polish in the exact shade named ‘social butterfly blue’.
Zuckerberg's famously low-key wardrobe (either a grey t-shirt or a hoodie) is so that the CEO saves time deciding what to wear each day. However, Zuckerberg is known to dress up when the occasion demands it. For a 2011 event with Barack Obama he showed up in a suit, with the president introducing himself by saying: “I’m Barack Obama and I’m the guy who got Mark to wear a jacket and tie.”
In July 2006 Zuckerberg turned down a $1 billion offer for the site from Yahoo. He was 22 years old at the time and owned 25 per cent of the company. Zuckerberg reportedly turned it down by saying “I don't know what I could do with the money. I'd just start another social networking site. I kind of like the one I already have.” He definitely made the right choice: Facebook is now valued at $135 billion.
A YouGov poll claimed that three-quarter of UK Facebook users' photos showed someone drinking or inebriated. However, the poll did ask users to estimate the number of boozy snaps themselves, and like all things on Facebook, there might have been an element of exaggeration involved.
Facebook operates a bounty hunter program – for bugs. Like many other big technology companies Facebook offers cash rewards to security researchers who point out flaws in the site’s code. The minimum payout is $500 and the largest prize to date has been $33,500.
More than a third of divorce filings in 2011 referenced Facebook, said a survey from UK-based legal firm Divorce Online. The exact figures may be an estimate, but with just under 8 trillion Facebook messages sent in 2013 it’s certain that a substantial body of evidence is to be found on the social network.
Zuckerberg isn’t much of a Twitter fan. Despite having nearly three hundred thousand followers on the service he’s only tweeted 19 times - once in 2012 and the rest in 2009. Although Facebook dwarfs twitter in terms of active users (1 billion compared with 200 million by some accounts) the micro-blogging site handles breaking news better. Facebook has introduced trending topics and hashtags to counter this.
Following the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009 Iceland decided to rewrite their constitution using Facebook to solicit suggestions from citizens. Unfortunately, despite this forward thinking approach, the document was killed by politicians in mid-2013 for various (mostly technical) reasons.
You can browse Facebook upside down. Facebook currently supports more than 70 different languages – including English (Pirate) and English (Upside Down). Check the bottom of the column on the right of your newsfeed and click your current language to change!
Publishers that post these kinds of stories will be penalised, with fewer of their stories appearing in Facebook’s Newsfeed; a big blow to certain sites that rely on Facebook to drive traffic – and therefore ad revenue – through tantalising and often misleading headlines.
Facebook says that in a survey it found that 80 per cent of users preferred to be shown headlines “that helped them decide if they wanted to read the full article before they had to click through” and that it would also be encouraging publishers to share stories in a format that is as explicit as possible.
These changes aren’t unusual for the social networking site, which has frequently been vocal about supporting “quality” journalism and has even launched its own dedicated app in the US to solidify its status as the de facto portal for reading news online.
However, some critics have pointed out that measuring time off-site might not be the perfect way to identify click-bait stories - many of which incorporate lengthy videos and pre-roll ads that keep readers occupied (and frustrated) for much longer.