Facebook Making Alteration To Gifts And News Feed
August 25, 2013

Changes To Facebook’s Gifts Page And News Feed Forthcoming

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Facebook is tweaking its news feed to focus more on “high quality” content, while also phasing out physical items from its gift-giving program, various media outlets reported this weekend.

The elimination of goods such as stuffed animals, flowers and wine as potential presents for those celebrating birthdays, anniversaries or other special occasions comes less than one year after the popular social network first launched the gift program, according to Samantha Murphy Kelly of Mashable.

Instead, Facebook plans to focus primarily on pitching gift cards through the program. Gift cards currently comprise approximately 80 percent of all purchased gifts made through Facebook, Kelly said. In addition, the social media website is looking to add more merchants to its own Facebook Gift Card, which is reusable and can contain monetary balances from multiple retailers at the same time, she added.

Engadget’s Timothy J. Seppala reports that the reason for the change is that the company will save money by not offering the physical items, which cost more money to ship and which were (as previously established) not selling all that well. A revamped gift page that will reflect the changes will begin rolling out to 10 percent of the website’s user base this weekend, and will be fully deployed within two weeks.

Users can also expect to see other changes in the revamped gifts page, according to Josh Constantine of TechCrunch. Those new features will include individual landing pages for each different brand, and an increased reliance on your friends’ personal information when it comes to suggesting which businesses to purchase presents from.

“To go with the greater emphasis on brick-and-mortar shopping through the Facebook Gift Cards, Facebook will now be factoring people’s check-ins (correction: but not photo locations) into recommendations,” Constantine said. “So if you check-in at Olive Garden, Facebook might suggest your friend buy you Facebook Gift Card credit to the Italian restaurant chain. You’ll also be able to buy gift credit in any denomination.”

On Friday, the social media website also revealed that it would be updating its News Feed algorithm in an attempt to locate and display higher-quality content originating from pages that members interact with on a regular basis, according to Kurt Wagner of Mashable.

The algorithm, which is used to generate a unique and personalized News Feed for each user, takes several factors into account to determine where to rank an item on the list, including the author and the number of likes, shares and comments for each post, Wagner said.

“Facebook surveyed ‘thousands’ of users on how they deem high quality content, folding the responses into a new machine learning system that was integrated with the master algorithm,” he added. “The updated algorithm considers ‘over a thousand different factors’ – including the quality of the page's other content and the level of completion on the profile – when determining whether a post is high quality.”

Facebook said that the changes “are meant to ensure that it shows members only the highest-quality Page posts,” according to CNET’s Jennifer Van Grove. The goal is to ensure that the best stories are shown to the social network members that will appreciate them the most, she added.

The company said that it has been testing the new algorithm with a small group of users, and has noticed a decrease in hidden stories and a significant increase in likes, comments and shares. The altered News Feed is expected to roll out to all members within the next few weeks.

“The changes will likely be met with mixed reactions from the brands and businesses that operate Pages on Facebook,” Van Grove said. “Designed with the user in mind, the formula will likely de-emphasize Page content that is identified as low quality, which means those updates will reach fewer people than before.”