Facebook’s big screen vision: tweaks News Feed signals to up ante against YouTube

30 Jun 2015

Facebook is taking into account things like switching on audio and enlarging the screen on video views to post the right stuff to the top of News Feeds.

Facebook is doubling down on video in a big way to close the gap between it and YouTube and is now tweaking News Feed video rankings to take into account key actions such as activating audio and making video full screen.

In studying people’s use of News Feed, Facebook engineers found that actions are more powerful than words. Just because people don’t necessarily want to comment on certain posts, by turning on the audio or making the screen bigger they are sending sufficient signals to indicate what they want.

As a result, the new signals in News Feed will send more of the videos people tend to watch to the top of their feed.

The changes come just a week after Facebook revealed it was refining posts based on how long people looked at posts and not necessarily whether they like or comment on posts.

Facebook has emerged to become a serious competitor to YouTube in terms of video viewing and last year confirmed that users were watching 1bn videos a day on the social network.

Actions speak louder than words

“Many people have told us that they enjoy watching videos in News Feed but don’t always feel inclined to like, comment or share them,” said Meihong Wang, engineering manager, and Yue Zhuo, software engineer.

“For example, you may have found a video from a non-profit you follow on Facebook to be really informative and you’re glad you saw it but it’s not something you felt inclined to like, comment on or share more broadly.

“We are now taking into account more interactions with videos that we have learned indicate whether someone found that video interesting, such as choosing to turn on sound, making the video full screen, and enabling high definition.

“So if you turn the volume up or make the video full screen, we have updated News Feed to infer you liked the video and will show you similar videos higher up in your News Feed. We have found that this helps us show people more videos that they are interested in.”

Internet video image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years