Facebook ended a test program that separated its News Feed into posts from publishers and brands, and those from friends and family, after getting a negative reaction from users, per a company blog post. The social network in October started testing the concept in Bolivia, Cambodia, Guatemala, Serbia, Slovakia and Sri Lanka.
Adam Mosseri, the Facebook executive in charge of its News Feed, said surveys of users showed that they were less satisfied with the posts they were seeing, and that two separate feeds didn’t help them connect more with friends and family, per Recode. He also said the company mishandled the test by not explaining it clearly beforehand.
Facebook is removing the “Explore” tab, a section of its app that featured public content from brands or publishers that users didn’t follow. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in January said the company made changes to the News Feed that were intended to improve the quality of time that people spend on the social network by prioritizing content from friends and family over posts from brands and publishers.
Despite ending the test of separating its News Feed into two parts, the social network is still shaking up what content people see with other changes to its algorithms that the company admits is decreasing time spent on the platform and downgrading posts from brands and publishers. The company has sought to improve the user experience by prioritizing personal content, especially after acknowledging studies that showed some people get depressed after looking through content on their news feeds.
Facebook’s aborted test may have implications for rivals like Snapchat, which recently rolled out a redesign of its app that separated messages from friends into one section of the app and content from publishers and celebrities into another section. The change triggered a backlash from disappointed or angry Snapchat users — and a surge in new users from those interested in what the hubbub is all about — but the company is sticking with the redesign and making additional tweaks to help users customize what they see.
The test of a split News Feed was limited to six countries, but publishers and brands have seen a more profound negative effect from the change to its algorithm. Little Things, a publishing startup that had generated millions of views and interactions on Facebook, this week shut down and blamed the social network for a drastic drop in its audience, per Digiday. Its experience not only showed the danger of depending on one outlet for audience growth, but also may serve as an early warning for other media companies that likely are seeing big decline in user interactions.