Facebook enhances news feed experience for mobile users

By afaqs! news bureau , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Digital | October 07, 2015
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The update has taken into account factors such as the type of device one is on, the speed of mobile network or WiFi connection.

People are coming online at a staggering rate in emerging markets and, in most cases, are doing so on mobile via 2G connections. In order to make sure another billion people can connect using Facebook there is a need to design features of the product that work seamlessly regardless of mobile network and device. This entails making sure people can load and scroll through news feed on any connection speed. Facebook has worked on a few updates recently to improve the experience so it works seamlessly and quickly for people in all parts of the world.

The update has taken into account factors such as the type of device one is on, the speed of mobile network or WiFi connection to ensure users see the most relevant stories for them. For example, if a user is on a slower internet connection that won't load videos, news feed will show fewer videos and more status updates and links.

Chris Marra

In order to simplify the way Facebook distinguishes between different types of networks, it has developed an open-sourced Network Connection Class, which determines how fast the user's connection is. "With recent updates, we can now start retrieving more stories and photos while you are reading news feed on slower connections to make sure stories are always available as you keep scrolling. So, if you are reading a post from your friend about their weekend, but doing so on a slower connection, we will load more stories while you're reading, so they are ready for you when you're done reading that post," says Chris Marra, product manager, emerging markets.

If a user is on a poor internet connection and his or her news feed is loading slowly, Facebook will first download the story being currently looked at, rather than download a series of news feed stories. For example, if one is looking at a photo a friend posted or a photo from a Page liked, that isn't fully downloaded, Facebook will prioritise that photo over loading a story below it, so he/she can see the most important photos as quickly as possible.

Facebook is also investing in the best image formats for photo loading. Recently, it moved to a progressive JPEG photo format which allows the platform to start showing lower-quality versions of photos while they're still downloading, so users can see some of the photos instead of nothing. This lowers the amount of data required to send photos to be loaded and speeds up the wait time for photos. This change was made for iOS at the beginning of the year and now the same technology is being used on both iOS and Android.

"People have told us that when they visit news feed they'd rather see stories that may have loaded on a previous visit than not see any stories at all. So, now when you leave news feed and then come back again on a bad connection, we will display previously downloaded stories. You can scroll down and see stories from your previous visit to news feed until you are able to connect again to a mobile network. For example, if you were to open news feed on an airplane you'd still be able to read stories you scrolled past previously, when you did have a connection, instead of just waiting for anything to load," explains Alex Sourov, engineering manager, emerging markets.

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