Does Facebook really care about you?
Props to CNN.com
Editor’s note: Douglas Rushkoff is a media theorist and the author of “Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age” and “Life Inc: How Corporatism Conquered the World and How We Can Take it Back.”
(CNN) — The ire and angst accompanying Facebook’s most recent tweaks to its interface are truly astounding. The complaints rival the irritation of AOL’s dial-up users back in the mid-’90s, who were getting too many busy signals when they tried to get online. The big difference, of course, is that AOL’s users were paying customers. In the case of Facebook, which we don’t even pay to use, we aren’t the customers at all.
Let’s start with the changes themselves. Until now, the main thing that showed up on users’ pages was a big list of “updates” from all the friends and companies and groups to which they were connected. It was a giant chronological list that made no distinction between an article (like this one) that may have been recommended by a hundred friends and the news that one person just changed his relationship status or had a funny dream.
Facebook has now prioritized that flow of stories into a news feed that puts “top stories” on top, and the more chronological list of everything down below. Top stories are selected by an algorithm of some sort that “knows” what will be important to the user based on past behavior and numbers of connections to those recommending the story, and so on.