Facebook News Feed Algorithm: Percent of a Video Watched By Users Given Weight

All Facebook - Thu, 01/26/2017 - 21:00

Facebook announced another change to its News Feed algorithm, this time giving more weight to what percentage of a video is watched by users.

Product manager Abhishek Bapna and research scientist Seyoung Park detailed the tweak in a Newsroom post, saying that one of the reasons for the move was to avoid penalizing longer videos. They wrote:

Today, we’re announcing a change to the way we rank videos in News Feed to adjust the value we give to how much of a video is watched. One of the signals we look at is “percent completion”–the percent of each video you watch–to help us understand which videos you enjoyed. If you watch most or all of a video, that tells us that you found the video to be compelling–and we know that completing a longer video is a bigger commitment than completing a shorter one. As we continue to understand how our community consumes video, we’ve realized that we should therefore weight percent completion more heavily the longer a video is, to avoid penalizing longer videos.

Bapna and Park said the change to the algorithm will “roll out gradually over the coming weeks,” and they addressed its potential impact on pages:

While we expect that most pages will not see significant changes in distribution as a result of this update, longer videos that people spend time watching may see a slight increase in distribution on Facebook–so people who find longer videos engaging may be able to discover more of them in News Feed. As a side effect, some shorter videos may see a slight dip in News Feed distribution.

As always, pages should focus on creating videos that are relevant and engaging to their audiences. Longer videos that people don’t want to watch will not perform better in News Feed. The best length for a video is whatever length is required to tell a compelling story that engages people, which is likely to vary depending on the story you’re telling. You also should look at your video insights in page analytics to understand how your videos perform.

Readers: What are your thoughts on the latest change to Facebook’s News Feed algorithm?

Image courtesy of nicomenijes/iStock.

Categories: English

Unlock Facebook With a Physical Security Key?

All Facebook - Thu, 01/26/2017 - 20:30

Facebook announced support for physical security keys with certain web browsers and mobile devices.

Security engineer Brad Hill said in a Facebook Security note that the option is an alternative to the two-factor authentication solution it currently offers, whereby users receive security codes for login approvals via text messages. He wrote:

Starting today, you can register a physical security key to your account so that the next time you log in after enabling login approvals, you’ll simply tap a small hardware device that goes in the USB drive of your computer. Security keys can be purchased through companies like Yubico, and the keys support the open Universal 2nd Factor (U2F) standard hosted by the FIDO Alliance.

Security keys for Facebook logins currently only work with certain web browsers and mobile devices, so we’ll ask you to also register an additional login approval method, such as your mobile phone or Code Generator. To add a security key from your computer, you’ll need to be using the latest version of Chrome or Opera. At this time, we don’t support security key logins for our mobile Facebook application, but if you have an NFC-capable Android device with the latest version of Chrome and Google Authenticator installed, you can use an NFC-capable key to log in from our mobile website.

Hill also outlined the benefits of using security keys for two-factor authentication:

  • Phishing protection: Your login is practically immune to phishing because you don’t have to enter a code yourself and the hardware provides cryptographic proof that it’s in your machine.
  • Interoperable: Security keys that support U2F don’t just work for Facebook accounts. You can use the same key for any supported online account (e.g., Google, Dropbox, GitHub, Salesforce), and those accounts can stay safe because the key doesn’t retain any records of where it is used.
  • Fast login: If you use a security key with your desktop computer, logging in is as simple as a tap on the key after you enter your password.

Readers: Would you consider using a physical security key to login to Facebook?

Keep Your Facebook Account Safe with YubiKey from Yubico on Vimeo.

Categories: English

Facebook Testing Slideshow Feature in Android App

All Facebook - Thu, 01/26/2017 - 19:45

Some Android users are starting to see the Slideshow feature Facebook introduced for its flagship iOS application last June (pictured to the right).

Slideshow was actually born as part of Facebook’s stand-alone Moments app.

As its name suggests, Slideshow enables users to combine multiple photos and videos into a slideshow, complete with music and a customized title

Phil Oakley of Android Police shared the screenshots below, saying that users in the test group are seeing Slideshow among their “Post to Facebook” options, above “Tag Friends,” and tapping on it brings them to a gallery of photos and videos.

And the social network confirmed to Sarah Perez of TechCrunch that it is testing Slideshow with “a small percentage” of Android users.

Readers: Would you like to see Facebook launch Slideshow for Android?

Categories: English

Twitter Launching Explore Tab for iOS, Android Apps

All Facebook - Thu, 01/26/2017 - 19:20

Twitter introduced a new Explore tab Thursday, where users will be able to find trending topics, Moments, search and live videos.

The social network confirmed last October that it was testing its new Explore tab in its iOS and Android applications.

Product designer Angela Lam announced in a blog post Thursday that Explore will begin rolling out for iOS users Thursday, with Android to follow “in the coming weeks.” She wrote:

There are many ways to see what’s happening on Twitter. Outside of your timeline, trends show you what topics are being discussed right now, Moments capture the most popular stories so you can catch up and search helps you find anything and everything.

Until today, you had to go to a few different places to find each of these experiences. As part of our continued efforts to make it easier to see what’s happening, we’re bringing all of these together. Very soon, you’ll be able to find trends, Moments, search and the best of live video, all within the new Explore tab.

Over the past year, we’ve been exploring different ways to make it simpler for people to find and use trends, Moments and search. During our research process, people told us that the new Explore tab helped them easily find news, what’s trending and what’s popular right now.

Although Lam stressed, “Nothing is going away,” Moments appears to be the big loser in this update, as access to the feature was moved from the toolbar at the bottom of the apps (replaced by Explore) and toward the bottom of the new Explore tab.

Readers: What are your initial impressions of Twitter’s new Explore tab?

Categories: English

Twitter Launches Stickers, Hashtag-Triggered Emoji for Lunar New Year

All Facebook - Thu, 01/26/2017 - 18:00

Twitter released new stickers and a hashtag-triggered emoji to celebrate the Lunar New Year. With this update, users can share the Year of the Rooster emoji by tweeting one of the supported hashtags associated with the occasion.

From now until Feb. 12, when users tweet hashtags such as #HappyLunarNewYear and #ChineseNewYear, the Rooster emoji will automatically appear after the hashtag. A complete list of the supported hashtags is available here.

Elsewhere, Twitter application users can add Lunar New Year stickers to their photos by adding a photo to a tweet and tapping the smiling face button in the bottom-right corner of the screen to access the stickers menu. From there, users can choose from four stickers in the #LunarNewYear category.

Twitter’s stickers act as visual hashtags, meaning that users can tap on a sticker on a picture to view other public pictures that contain the same sticker.

Readers: Will you use these hashtags in your tweets?

Categories: English

Hugo Barra to Lead Virtual Reality Efforts at Facebook

All Facebook - Thu, 01/26/2017 - 17:30

Facebook has a new lead for all of its virtual reality efforts: vice president of virtual reality Hugo Barra.

Barra had been vp of international with Chinese electronics company Xiaomi since September 2013.

Prior to Xiaomi, he served as a product management director at Google, working mostly on its Android team.

He was a co-founder of mobile speech-recognition software company LOBBY7 in 2000. LOBBY7 was acquired by ScanSoft in 2003, and ScanSoft became Nuance Communications two years later, with Barra holding several product management, product marketing and business development positions with that company.

Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg welcomed Barra to the company in a Facebook post (embedded below):

I’m excited that Hugo Barra is joining Facebook to lead all of our virtual reality efforts, including our Oculus team. Hugo’s in China right now, so here we are together in VR. It seems fitting.

I’ve known Hugo for a long time, starting when he helped develop the Android operating system, to the last few years he’s worked at Xiaomi in Beijing bringing innovative devices to millions of people.

Hugo shares my belief that virtual and augmented reality will be the next major computing platform. They’ll enable us to experience completely new things and be more creative than ever before. Hugo is going to help build that future, and I’m looking forward to having him on our team.

Barra added in his own Facebook post (embedded below):

I’m excited to share my next adventure as I return to Silicon Valley—in a couple of months, I’ll be joining Facebook as vp of virtual reality (VPVR!) and lead the Oculus team. Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun always says that the highest calling of an engineer is to make technology breakthroughs quickly and readily available to the widest possible spectrum of humanity. That will be my mission at Facebook, and I look forward to building the future of immersive technology with Mark Zuckerberg, (former Oculus VR CEO and leader of its PC VR group) Brendan Trexler Iribe, (Facebook chief technology officer) Mike Schroepfer and the visionaries in the Oculus team.

Readers: What are your thoughts on Barra joining Facebook?

Categories: English

Why Facebook Is Loading Faster on Chrome, Firefox

All Facebook - Thu, 01/26/2017 - 17:00

Have you noticed improvements in speed when accessing Facebook via Google Chrome or Firefox? If you have, here’s why:

Infrastructure engineer Ben Maurer and software engineer Nathan Schloss penned a detailed blog post about how Facebook worked with Google and Firefox parent Mozilla on performance improvements, specifically in the areas of browser caches and revalidation.

Maurer and Schloss defined revalidation as when browsers repeatedly request the same content, such as logos or JavaScript code that are reused across multiple pages, and they discussed how they tweaked the browsers’ expiration times and validators for that content so that unnecessary time and bandwidth was not devoted to downloading the same content over and over.

The results of Facebook’s work with Google and Mozilla were:

  • Both Chrome and Firefox recently launched features that make their caches significantly more efficient both for Facebook and for the entire web.
  • Facebook was able to reduce static resource requests made to its servers by 60 percent, giving those servers more CPU space to load the rest of the web page.
  • Due to examining and improving reload button behavior, Chrome in particular went from having 63 percent of requests being conditional to 24 percent of them being conditional.

The blog post went into heavy detail, and some highlights follow:

To stop unnecessary downloads, HTTP servers can specify an expiration time and a validator for each request that can indicate to a browser that it doesn’t need to download until later. An expiration time tells the browser how long it can re-use the latest response and is sent using the Cache-Control header. A validator is a way to allow the browser to continue to re-use the response even after the expiration time. It allows the browser to check with the server if a resource is still valid and re-use the response. Validators are sent via Last-Modified or Etag headers.

A not modified (304) response is sent if the resource has not been modified. This has benefits over downloading the whole resource again, as much less data needs to be transferred, but it doesn’t eliminate the latency of the browser talking to the server. Every time a not-modified response is sent, the browser already had the correct resource. We want to avoid these wasted revalidations by allowing the client to cache for longer.

Revalidation raises a difficult question: How long should your expiration times be? If you send expiration times of one hour, browsers will have to talk to your server to check if your resources have been modified every hour. Many resources like logos or even JavaScript code change rarely; every hour is overdoing it in those cases. On the other hand, if your expiration times are long, browsers will serve the resource from cache, potentially showing users out-of-date resources.

To solve this problem, Facebook uses the concept of content addressed URLs. Rather than our URLs describing logical resources (“logo.png,” “library.js”), our URLs are a hash of our content. Every time we release our site, we take each static resource and hash it. We maintain a database that stores those hashes and maps them to their contents. When serving a resource rather than serving it by name, we create a URL that has the hash. For example, if the hash of logo.png is abc123, we use the URL www.facebook.com/rsrc.php/abc123.png.

Because this scheme uses the hash of the contents of a file as the URL, it provides an important guarantee: The contents of a content addressed URL never change. Therefore we serve all of our content addressed URLs with a long expiration time (currently one year). Additionally, because the contents of our URLs never change, our servers will always respond with a 304 not-modified response for any and all conditional requests for static resources. This saves on CPU cycles and lets us respond to such requests quicker.

Chrome’s and Firefox’s measures have effectively eliminated revalidation requests to us from modern version of those browsers. This reduces traffic to our servers but, more important, improves load time for people visiting Facebook.

This was a tricky issue because we were asking to modify long-standing web behavior. It highlights how web browsers can, and do, work with web developers to make the web better for everyone. We’re happy to have such a good working relationship with our friends on the Chrome and Firefox teams, and are excited about our continuing collaborations to improve the web for everyone!

Readers: Have you noticed any improvements in Facebook’s performance on Chrome or Firefox?

Image courtesy of temizyurek/iStock.

Categories: English