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Facebook has ended a test that put publishers in one feed and friends in another.
Facebook has decided it’s a bad idea to separate brands’ and publishers’ posts from those that your friends and family share.
The social giant confirmed Thursday that it has ended a test of that concept it was running in six countries dating back to last fall.
The test removed content from publishers and businesses from the News Feed and put it inside a separate “Explore” feed, creating a digital divide between your friends and brands. Publishers in those countries that rely on Facebook for traffic freaked out when users no longer saw publisher posts interspersed with stuff from their friends.
“People don’t want two separate feeds,” wrote Adam Mosseri, the exec in charge of Facebook’s News Feed, in a blog post Thursday. “In surveys, people told us they were less satisfied with the posts they were seeing, and having two separate feeds didn’t actually help them connect more with friends and family.”
When Mosseri spoke at Recode’s Code Media conference in February, he said the test was “costly,” and that Facebook wanted to run it once before deciding “definitively once and for all” whether it worked or not.
It didn’t. So Facebook is ending the test. It is also shutting down its “Explore” tab, a section of the app where users could find public content from brands or publishers they didn’t follow.
The test wasn’t necessarily a waste — Facebook learned people don’t want two feeds! — but the company has also admitted that it wasn’t handled very well.
“We should have been more transparent and up front about [the test] ahead of it,” said Campbell Brown, Facebook’s head of news partnerships, onstage with Mosseri at Code Media. “[Publishers] totally freaked out, rightly so, because they didn’t understand what we were doing or trying to get at.”
The sentiment was echoed in Thursday’s blog post from Mosseri. “We also received feedback that we made it harder for people in the test countries to access important information, and that we didn’t communicate the test clearly,” he wrote. “We’re acting on this feedback by updating the way we evaluate where to test new products, and how we communicate about them.”
Facebook routinely makes changes to its News Feed to show users more (or less) of specific types of content, like live video. Its most recent News Feed update had a similar purpose to the now-defunct test: The change was made to show people more stuff from their friends and family, and less from brands and publishers.
That is still the priority, but separating the two groups completely isn’t the way to accomplish that.
Ironically, that total separation of friend stuff from publisher stuff is the premise of Snapchat’s redesign, the same redesign that people are freaking out about. Facebook found that strategy doesn’t work. It’ll be worth watching to see if Snapchat decides the same.
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