The Tech News Blog

March 6, 2014

Facebook Rolls Out Updated News Feed Design

Faceook News Feed updateSoon, when you head over to Facebook on your desktop, things will look a tad different.

The social network on Thursday announced plans to roll out an updated look for its News Feed, which puts a greater focus on images. The update brings the desktop version in line with Facebook's photo-centric mobile offerings. For the change-averse, this might sound like bad news, but fret not. This is more of a minor tweak than a radical overhaul.

It comes after Facebook last year began testing a complete redesign of the News Feed for desktop and mobile, complete with larger images and new ways to navigate around. After extensive testing, Facebook found that there were some problems with that version. Namely, people liked the larger photos and images, but found it more difficult to navigate the site.

"The updated design has the best of both worlds: it keeps the layout and navigation people liked, but offers bigger images and photos, as well as a new font," Facebook wrote in a blog post. The company did not make any changes to the News Feed design on mobile devices.

February 25, 2014

Facebook Ditching Email Service

Facebook logo

Facebook's long-forgotten email service is set to shut down next month, though it's unlikely anyone will notice.

Since its launch in late 2010, the "Facebook Mail" function has gone relatively unused, despite being forced upon users in the summer of 2012.

By early March, it will be nothing more than a memory. Facebook confirmed the news, telling PCMag that users will begin receiving notice that the system is changing.

When it launched its "modern messaging system" in 2010, Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg said the service would transcend email, SMS, and other messaging services. "We tried to make it simple, so that people don't have to think about this stuff," he said at the time.

February 4, 2014

Facebook Users’ Biggest Pet Peeve? Oversharing

Facebook logo

When you're about to post a status update to Facebook, you might want to read it one more time, and ask yourself: "Do other people really need to know this?" Because you might just end up annoying all your friends.

We've all seen it before — rants about a significant others, posts about kids' potty activities, and other cringe-worthy posts. It's called oversharing, and it's one of the things people dislike most about Facebook, according to new data from the Pew Research Center.

To commemorate the social network's tenth birthday today, Pew has released a new survey that discusses how people are using the site, as well as what they like — and dislike — about it. Turns out, we have a long list of gripes with the world's largest social network.

At the top of the list, 36 percent of Facebook users "strongly dislike" it when people share too much information about themselves, the survey found. Another 36 percent can't stand it when Facebook friends post their photo, or things about them, without asking for permission first.

January 22, 2014

Study: Facebook to Lose 80 Percent of Users, Become the Next MySpace

Facebook FailsJust like an infectious disease, social networks can spread rapidly, gaining millions of users in a short amount of time, and then abruptly die off. It happened to MySpace, and Facebook could be next, according to a new study from Princeton University.

Researchers at the university's Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering predict that Facebook will undergo a rapid decline in the coming years, losing 80 percent of its peak user base between 2015 and 2017. The researchers leveraged epidemiological models used to track the spread of infectious diseases and publicly available Google search data to analyze the adoption and abandonment of online social networks.

"The application of disease-like dynamics to OSN [online social network] adoption follows intuitively, since users typically join OSNs because their friends have already joined," the researchers wrote in their report. "Ideas, like diseases, have been shown to spread infectiously between people before eventually dying out, and have been successfully described with epidemiological models."

According to the study, Facebook has already "reached the peak of its popularity" and has now entered a period of decline, as evidenced by a downward trend in search frequency after 2012. As users now begin to abandon the social network, "recovery" will spread infectiously, meaning others will begin to jump ship after their peers have left.

January 16, 2014

Facebook Rolls Out Trending Topics

Facebook Trending Topics

This morning's 86th Academy Awards nominations became instant social media fodder: Who got snubbed? Who is undeserving? When will they rename the event The Meryls? But it's easy to lose track of the discussion.

Facebook today began rolling out its new Trending feature, designed to surface relevant conversations—like the upcoming Oscars telecast—and help users discover more content.

Desktop users in the U.S., U.K., Canada, India, and Australia will begin seeing the new Trending box on the top right side of the homepage. Denoted by squiggly blue arrows, the topics range from people (Bruce Springsteen, Rex Ryan) to events (Academy Awards, Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show) to places (J.C. Penney).

Each topic is accompanied by a bold headline and a brief explanation of why it is trending; click on the title to open a separate feed of dedicated articles, videos, photos, status updates from friends, public Pages, and other fans.

Only those posts that have been shared by friends or made Public will appear on the page.

In the same vein as Twitter's popular Trending Topics function, Facebook is using an algorithm to highlight subjects that have seen a sharp increase in popularity. The list is not based on overall volume of posts about a topic.

January 10, 2014

Facebook Ditching Sponsored Stories in April

Facebook logo

If you're not down with Facebook's Sponsored Stories, we have some good news–the troubled ad units are going kaput.

"Facebook will sunset the creation of sponsored stories," the social network told developers in a Thursday blog post. "Domain and open graph sponsored stories will no longer be allowed to be created. Existing domain and open graph sponsored stories will cease to have delivery after April 9th."

Facebook in 2011 began rolling out Sponsored Stories, first to the sidebar then on the ticker, the real-time menu on the right side of the homepage that displays virtually all of your friends' Facebook activity. While the ads are paid content, they appear as the activity of your friends or as Pages people have Liked. The idea is that they're less invasive than typical ads.

But sponsored stories haven't exactly been smooth sailing for Facebook. The social network earlier this year was forced to pony up a cool $20 million to settle a class-action lawsuit related to the feature. The settlement included about 150 million Facebook users who were each entitled to receive $15 for a valid claim.

December 16, 2013

Facebook Gives Back With ‘Donate Now’ Button

Facebook Donate

In lieu of holiday gifts, some people prefer to give money to a friend or family member's favorite charity. This year, Facebook is simplifying the process by rolling out easy donations to nonprofits.

Visit any of the 19 participating organizations' Facebook pages to donate, or look out for the "Donate Now" button beside News Feed posts to make a contribution.

"In times of disaster or crisis, people turn to Facebook to check on loved ones, get updates, and to learn how they can help," a Facebook statement said.

Just last month, the social network partnered with the International Federation of Red Cross to open the site to donations for relief in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

"After seeing the generosity of people around the world toward this effort, we've been inspired to help everyone donate, at any time, to the organizations they care most about," the site said.

December 3, 2013

Facebook to Prioritize News Over Memes

Facebook News Feed

Like it or not, more and more Internet users are getting their news from Facebook, and the social network is paying attention.

Going forward, Facebook said it will prioritize "high quality" news stories on the newsfeed rather than meme-type content.

"What this means is that you may start to notice links to articles a little more often (particularly on mobile)," Facebook said in a blog post - and fewer meme photos.

"Our surveys show that on average people prefer links to high quality articles about current events, their favorite sports team or shared interests, to the latest meme," Facebook said.The social network pledged to do "a better job of distinguishing between a high quality article on a website versus a meme photo hosted somewhere other than Facebook when people click on those stories on mobile."

Meanwhile, if you click on an article link, Facebook will serve up recommendations - up to three related articles directly below the news feed "to help you discover more content you may find interesting."

November 12, 2013

Facebook Pushes Password Resets After Adobe Hack

Data Breaches

More than a month after Adobe suffered a massive security breach, Facebook is pushing users to update their password and security settings.

Though Facebook was not directly involved in the Adobe hack, the social network is taking precautions for those members who used the same email and passcode sequence for Facebook and Adobe.

"We actively look for situations where the accounts of people who use Facebook could be at risk — even if the threat is external to our service," a Facebook spokesman told PCMag. "When we find these situations, we present messages to people to help them secure their accounts."

According to that notice, users must answer additional security questions and change their password. "For your protection, no one can see you on Facebook until you finish," the message (below) reads.

Early last month, Adobe revealed that it had recently suffered a massive security breach which compromised the IDs, passwords, and credit card information of nearly 3 million customers, as well as login data for an undetermined number of accounts.

The organization later amended its estimate, increasing the original number from nearly 3 million to 38 million. As Facebook security engineer Chris Long chimed in on Krebs's blog, offering behind-the-scenes clarity about the situation.

October 31, 2013

Report: Facebook Test Tracks Your Cursor Movements

Facebook logo

Facebook already has tons of data about your circle of friends and interests, but the social network may soon begin tracking your every cursor movement, according to a new report.

Facebook analytics chief Ken Rudin told the Wall Street Journal that his company is testing technology that collects data on "minute user interactions with its content," like how long your cursor hovers over a certain part of the site, or whether your news feed is visible at a given moment on your mobile phone. The collected data could be used for product development purposes or targeted advertising.

At this point, Facebook collects two types of data — behavioral and demographic, according to the report. Demographic data includes information about your life outside of Facebook - where you live and went to school - while behavioral data is captured in real time on the site about your network of friends and the things you "like."