Why Facebook’s latest News Feed update isn’t like the others

Trading volume is the highest it’s been in a year.

Facebook changes its News Feed algorithm all the time, but Thursday’s big update is not like the others.

You can tell by the spike in the amount of stock trading hands. More than 69 million shares of Facebook stock have been traded today — the highest volume day in the past year.

Mark Zuckerberg announced yesterday that the social media site would prioritize posts from friends and family and reduce the reach for brands and publishers, presumably hurting their referral traffic. Altogether that means less time spent on Facebook, Zuckerberg said.

Investors weren’t very happy about that. Facebook’s stock dropped 5 percent this morning.

Facebook trading volume

Other big trading days, unsurprisingly, followed Facebook’s regular earnings releases where the company gives a slew of updates, including its financials. This news was bigger than all of those updates based on trading volume.

Facebook has made plenty of changes to News Feed over the years, but they haven’t caused as much mayhem.

For comparison, after Facebook announced a similar move to favor user-generated content in 2016, about 20 million shares traded hands — a third of what was traded today. On average, 15 million shares are traded each day.


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The coolest thing I saw at CES: Forpheus, the Ping-Pong-playing robot

Look out, Forrest Gump, here comes Forpheus.

CES, the giant, annual Consumer Electronics Show that’s wrapping up in Las Vegas, is full of bizarre technology. From customer-service robots and gesture-controlled drones to massage chairs that cost more than a car, CES is a smorgasbord of stuff that will make you feel a little gross inside (or, alternatively, super pumped to get your hands on a pair of new headphones!).

As a first-time attendee, I spent a few hours on the showroom floor looking for something memorable.

I found a few contenders: A motorcycle helmet from Skully with a camera in back and a small peripheral display in front so riders can see what’s coming up behind them; eye-tracking technology from a Swedish company called Tobii that let me aim my virtual weapon with just my eyes; an 8,000-pound bionic exoskeleton from a company called Furrion that, according to The Verge, can run up to 20 mph. (It was on display but, sadly, you could only see it in action via this video.)

But the coolest thing I found was Forpheus, a Ping-Pong-playing robot from Japanese technology company Omron, a product that drew big crowds each time it was demoed on the showroom floor.

The robot is big — close to 10 feet tall, and probably too wide to fit inside your basement or game room — but it’s billed as a “table tennis tutor” intended to keep a rally going and help its human partner improve.

The technology seemed pretty good. The bot uses a combination of cameras and artificial intelligence software to track the Ping-Pong ball and determine how to hit it back, all within milliseconds.

Robot table-tennis tutor at CES 2018

Looking to improve your game? Meet Forpheus – the “table tennis tutor” robot. Made by a company called Omron, it’s not designed to beat you, but rather to make you better at the game. And it can even serve!

Posted by Recode on Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Anyone who’s ever played Ping-Pong knows that this requires you to take into account things like speed, ball spin and direction, not to mention the angle at which you need to return the ball in order to keep it in play. The bot handled it pretty well. According to the company’s website, “The ball’s location is detected up to 80 times per second.” Forpheus can even use the “movements of its opponent … to predict when a smash is coming.” Sweet.

A Ping-Pong-playing robot is far from necessary. But it’s easy to imagine that kind of technology — with the ability to detect movement and location accurately and nearly instantaneously — impacting other areas of life, like transportation.

And if not, well, at least we can all work on our backhand.


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Facebook says it will send less traffic to publishers — but that’s already been happening

Google is publishers’ main source of external traffic.

Facebook’s announcement yesterday that it would be sending less traffic to brands and publishers sent its stock down this morning. But the move has been a long time coming.

Facebook’s share of external web traffic to publishers declined to 24 percent in January, down from nearly 40 percent this time last year, according to new data from Parse.ly, a digital analytics company.

Google, meanwhile, has again become the main source of referral traffic to publishers, with 43 percent coming from the search engine, up from 34 percent at the beginning of 2017.

Facebook versus Google share of publisher referral traffic

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Facebook shares are falling because Wall Street doesn’t know what to make of Mark Zuckerberg’s News Feed changes

The stock is down 5 percent

Facebook is re-thinking the way it works, and that will have repercussions for users, advertisers and publishers that use the network.

The overhaul, which will first show up in Facebook’s News Feed, will be a “major change,” says Mark Zuckerberg, who says users may end up spending less time on the site.

Wall Street believes him. And for now, Wall Street thinks this is not good news: Facebook shares dropped 5 percent overnight.

Why? Here’s one theory: “There is too much uncertainty relating to the economic impact of Facebook’s pending News Feed changes for us to be comfortable,” Stifel analyst Scott Devitt said in a note this morning, when he lowered his rating on the stock from “buy” to a “hold” — even though he thinks, “Facebook is doing the right thing for the long-term sustainability of the platform.”

Context: If you bought Facebook shares a week ago, that drop looks pretty scary.

 Screenshot via Yahoo Finance

If you bought them a year ago? No problem. You’re still up more than 40 percent.

 Screenshot via Yahoo Finance

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We’re launching a TV series with MSNBC about tech, jobs and the future. You’re invited.

First up to be interviewed: Google’s Sundar Pichai and YouTube’s Susan Wojcicki.

Yes, I am about to become an anchor monster.

No, really. Because this year, Recode is partnering with MSNBC to produce a town hall event series — name to come! — starting Jan. 19. It will broadcast on television and on the web and look at how technology is impacting every aspect of our lives from business to politics to science to health to jobs to climate to culture to education.

Since we are just beginning to address this accelerated change and the disruption it brings around the globe, we hope to use this moment to have substantive conversations about what is happening, the challenges we face and the solutions that are available.

In fact, solutions are the focus — to try to bring some clarity and forward thinking to what has been a challenging landscape across the United States and the world. Through this series, we will tap into a range of topics with thought leaders that include corporate executives and entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, government officials, academics and citizens.

Obviously, the place to start is one of the important areas impacted — jobs and the workplace — which will be the focus in 2018. While much of the election centered on the loss of manufacturing in the Rust Belt, some think the really tough challenges are still to come as advances in artificial intelligence, robotics and automation gain steam and begin to impact a swath of employment that has been previously untouched.

That’s why the first episode of the one-hour program will be a keynote interview with Google CEO Sundar Pichai and YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, led by myself and MSNBC co-host Ari Melber. It makes sense, since many of the search giant’s key businesses are ones that are likely to dominate its next era of innovation.

This first of the conversations will take place at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, Calif., on Jan. 19 at 12:00 pm PT and will air on MSNBC on the same date at 7 pm PT / 10 pm ET. And you can come! Tickets can be reserved here.

I am looking forward to really taking these issues to the next level and I am grateful that this pair of important leaders at one of Silicon Valley’s most iconic and powerful companies are willing to take on such complex issues in a forthright format. We’ll talk about a range of issues, including delving into more details around Google’s $ 1 billion initiative announced by Pichai in October aimed at training U.S. workers for jobs in technology.

And we will be bringing more key leaders like Pichai and Wojcicki in locations across the nation to take the important next steps to talk frankly about the major challenges facing our changing workplaces — from retraining to increasing diversity to figuring out a cogent policy on immigration, which has been the fuel of much of tech’s success.

Photo collage of Google CEO Sundar Pichai and YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki
Google CEO Sundar Pichai and YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki

As Oprah Winfrey noted in an epic speech recently, “a new day is on the horizon” — so it’s well past time to talk about what kind of day we want that to be.

It’s no secret that I started off 2017 thinking of only bad weather, railing about tech’s near abrogation of its responsibility to the nation and the world in the weeks after the election of President Donald J. Trump.

As I wrote in an angry essay, “As Trumplethinskin lets down his hair for tech, shame on Silicon Valley for climbing the Tower in silence”:

Yes, indeed, the lifestyles of the rich and famous of Silicon Valley are getting dicey these days as the dawn of the Trump administration is about to peek over the stormy horizon.

So what is the first move of the people in charge of inventing the future? Full of ugly choices and likely bad outcomes, they have opted to punt, with most of them saying nothing publicly about even attending the summit nor making it clear beforehand that there are some key issues that are just not negotiable.

That’s why the leaders of tech should be ashamed of themselves for lining up like sheeple after all the numskull attacks Trump has made on what is pretty much the United States’ most important, innovative and future-forward business sector.

That’s even though tech companies — who mostly backed Trump’s Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton — stand on the exact other side of a myriad of key issues from Trump, including immigration reform, trade, encryption and a depressing range of social concerns. He attacked Apple and Amazon by name during the campaign and suggested he’d talk to Bill Gates — I know, I know, it’s incomprehensible — about closing down parts of the internet.

And, just today, it’s become dead clear he is about to decimate net neutrality, an issue that was hard won by tech only recently.

While one would hope for a substantive discussion, it’s pretty clear to me that this is just going to be that media-saturated geek reality show episode, in which real billionaires walk the gantlet of prostration at Trump Tower and get exactly nothing for handing over their dignity so easily.

I’d say I called it pretty accurately. But don’t worry, techies, as I have calmed down a lot since then, even if the whole world has gotten ever angrier at tech for lots and lots of reasons. That includes allowing the Russian manipulation of social media to screw up U.S. elections, to their slow response to worries about tech addiction, to ever-growing suspicions that Silicon Valley is doing more harm than good with their inventions.

This is obviously a 180-degree shift from when most people thought tech hung the moon and its leaders were demigods.

But the truth is somewhere in between. Tech is neither evil nor benign; it is not the benevolent creator nor the cruel destroyer; and it certainly does not have the answers to the myriad of problems facing us.

That’s why I now want to explore more deeply where we are all headed, betting that people are tired of the noisy distractions of the current culture and in desperate need of some real discussion about what is happening and where it is all going. The idea of the event is to have a bracing exchange with top business leaders — more names to come soon — about what is really happening, what is being done to assuage possible damage and what it means for the future.

Or if you’ll allow me to indulge my skills in fluent geek, I will borrow a phrase from the comic book “Spider-Man”: “With great power comes great responsibility.” Actually, Voltaire said it first, but it’s the same idea throughout the ages.

Which is to say, we have the power to change the world, so what do we all want to do? We hope to find that out.

So, as a reminder, you can come to the first event at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco on Jan. 19 at 12:00 pm PT. Tickets can be reserved here. It will air on MSNBC on the same date at 7 pm PT / 10 pm ET.

And if you miss this show, don’t worry, we’re going to have several more this year. Sign up for our newsletter below and you’ll be one of the first to be alerted to them.


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