The Facebook news feed is turning 10! It's hard to imagine life before Facebook, but people hated that feed in the beginning. Now one seventh of the world is on Facebook, and the people who weren't too fond of the never-ending news feed feature are on board.
From the beginning, the social network's news feed curated information that was most relevant to you. And the more you used Facebook, the more information the company (and soon enough, advertisers) had to further customize the feed.
As we all experience, Facebook doesn't just provide information on our friends, but news tailored to our particular tastes, politics, and demographics. "News organizations, many of which have seen their businesses decimated—or bolstered—as their readers turn to Facebook for headlines, express concern that Facebook acts as a giant managing editor for the web," Jessi Hempel wrote for Backchannel.
But Facebook denies that it plays an editorial role. "When you think about a media company, you have people who are producing content, who are editing content, that's not us," Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said. "We exist to give you the tools to curate and have the experience to connect with the people, businesses, institutions in the world that you want. So every person gets to program their own Facebook experience."
Chris Cox, chief product officer at Facebook, said the news feed solved the initial problem ten years ago of having to click around people's individual profiles to get information, rather than eventually having a platform at the center of the site that gave it to you.
Initially, the feedback from users was "Turn it off, this sucks," Cox remembers. "But, we had this conviction that if people used it, they would learn to love it." And in response to user feedback, Facebook engineers developed an array of privacy controls that they hadn't anticipated needing before.
Cox argues that the news feed is meant to portray information that users find meaningful. And that instead of being an echo chamber of only your close friends' opinions and politics, the News Feed actually pulls mostly from "weak ties." "All these people you don't normally hear from, and at least for me, that surfaces a lot more opinions from sources I wouldn't read," said Cox.
In the past ten years, it seems as if users not only stopped hating the news feed, but have come to love it and even regard it as indispensable. Or maybe it's love/hate, if you just can't stop scrolling.