Facebook Tweaks How It Shows News Feed Stories On Slower Connections

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Facebook announced some changes it has made to how it decides to show users content in the News Feed. These changes are specifically for users on slow connections.

In a nutshell, News Feed will now take connection speed into account, prioritize which stories to load based on that, and show previously loaded stories instead of nothing at all on really poor connections.

If you're on a slower connection, Facebook may show you less video stories and more status updates and links. The company has developed an open-sourced Network Connection Class to determine how fast the user's connection is, and with new updates, Facebook can start retrieving ore stories and photos while the user is reading News Feed on a slower connection. This ensures that stories are always available as the user scrolls.

"If you are on a poor internet connection and your News Feed is loading slowly, we will first download the story you’re currently looking at, rather than download a series of News Feed stories," explain Facebook's Chris Marra and Alex Sourov. "For example, if you are looking at a photo your friend posted or a photo from a Page you’ve liked, that isn’t fully downloaded, we prioritize that photo over loading a story below it that you aren’t currently looking at, so you can see the most important photos you’re viewing as quickly as possible."

Facebook is now using a Progressive JPEG format for photos that enables it to start showing lower-quality images while the photo is still downloading. This way the user on a slow connection can see something rather than nothing. Facebook has actually been utilizing this on iOS for most of the year, but the capability has now come to Android.

"Sometimes we are unable to load any new News Feed stories if a connection is particularly congested or poor quality," Marra and Sourov say. "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."

The changes should help any user suffering from annoying connection speeds, but are mainly geared toward emerging markets that are just coming online, often on 2G connections.

Image via Facebook

Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.