Facebook updated its News Feed feature on Tuesday so that content loads quickly even with weak Internet connections.
Many of Facebook’s users are in emerging markets with weak 2G connections, such as India, Brazil and Mexico, where it is difficult to load pictures and videos that use more data. The update is part of an effort by Facebook to get more users in these countries as it has largely saturated the US and western European markets.
The Facebook app is able to select articles, pictures and videos to load based on the strength of users’ connections. If they have weak connectivity, News Feed will select content that is easier and faster to load, such as text articles or posts.
In a blogpost explaining the changes, Facebook Emerging Markets Product Manager Chris Marra, and Alex Sourov, Emerging Markets Engineering Manager, wrote that they have “developed an open-sourced Network Connection Class, which is a way for us to determine how fast your connection is.”
They added, “With recent updates, we can now start retrieving more stories and photos while you are reading News Feed on slower connections to make sure stories are always available as you keep scrolling. So if you are reading a post from your friend about their weekend, but doing so on a slower connection, we will load more stories while you’re reading so they are ready for you when you’re done reading that post.”
They also wrote that Facebook will prioritise downloading of stories if a user is on a poor Internet connection. The blogpost reads, “For example, if you are looking at a photo your friend posted or a photo from a Page you’ve liked, that isn’t fully downloaded, we prioritize that photo over loading a story below it that you aren’t currently looking at, so you can see the most important photos you’re viewing as quickly as possible.”
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Facebook employees in India reported slow connectivity that often made the app frustrating to use, said Tom Alison, Facebook’s director of engineering. The company then sent a team to India, dedicated to delivering a faster News Feed experience in areas with weak connections.
“News Feed is a product you tend to want to check regularly throughout the day, and that’s not possible when it’s slow to load,” Alison said.
As part of the update, News Feed can also pull up stories even when there is no connection – such as on a subway – by recalling articles and content that were loaded on a previous Facebook visit but were never clicked on.
With Reuters Inputs