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Eran's blog

On News Feeds

Justin Smith on Inside Facebook lays the business case for Facebook connect: Selling increased visibility in news feeds as a way to generate traffic to your Connect-ed website. Facebook’s news feed was always based on some hidden, inscrutable algorithm that offers very little control either to the users reading the feeds or to the applications publishing stories. Instead decisions on what stories show up in your feed are made by Facebook with some basic feedback from the user. This results in a confused, disordered, sometimes repetitive feed with stories that are sometimes days old being folded in together with up to date information and some stories (possibly more relevant to the user) never showing up.

This is where twitter’s “transcendent clarity” trumps Facebook. I know that every twitt published by my friends will show up in my feeds (modulo bugs and outages, of course) and mostly in the correct order. I know that stories that are more important to me (@replies and d messages) will be captured in their own feeds so I’ll be sure to see them. I can decide for myself how much attention to pay to each twitter or to twitter in general. Sometimes I’ll read every single twitt and reply to a couple, but often enough, I just skim unread twitts for anything that looks interesting.

Of course, with twitter’s API I can build additional services to cut and slice that feed to my liking. On Facebook, even with platform, I have very limited access to the feed and as far as I can tell, there’s not even an RSS version of my news feed. For my money, I’d say that if Facebook wants to take over or replace the Web they should learn more from it. What made the Web and the Internet so successful is openness – Open standards and Open software. It’s also what made twitter’s news feed an amazing success despite Facebook’s attempts to co-opt that feature.

Filed under: Social Software