Let's face it, Facebook loves trying out new stuff. The social media site may have shed its old mantra "Move Fast, Break Things" but still it rings true to this day. Most of the time, Facebook rolls out new features without warning its more than a billion users. You open the app and voila, a new icon is magically there.
Take these newly rolled out features, for example. Aside from the introduction of "Stories" last week, a feature that shamelessly clones Snapchat's special effects and expiring posts, Facebook is quietly testing another feature that's leading to more confusion.
A number of Facebook users are starting to see a mysterious "rocket" icon on their iOS and Android apps, adding to the already-bloated array of icons populating the social media giant's mobile portals.
If you're one of the "lucky" few, the rocket icon is fairly easy to spot - it's either on top or the bottom of your Facebook app, right there with the familiar News Feed, Videos, Marketplace and Notification buttons.
What has Facebook done now? I already really dislike that marketplace crap. Now what's this rocket icon thing??? pic.twitter.com/l0obKojCJH
— Amanda Clinton (@Amanda_Clinton) March 4, 2017
Where could this Facebook rocket lead and what does it really mean?
Alternate News Feed
Well, it looks like the rocket leads to an "alternate News Feed" (not to be confused with "alternative facts," please), a brand new News Feed that contains posts, articles, photos and videos from sources you're not following.
So now, instead of your friends' baby and pet pictures, birthdays, boasts or rants - or posts from Facebook Pages that you follow - this alternate feed will consist of posts from news media outlets or Facebook Pages that are similar to the ones you like but haven't followed yet.
The introduction of this alternate feed strongly suggests that Facebook is trying to get its users to discover other sources of content aside from the ones they already know and are familiar with.
"We are testing a complementary feed of popular articles, videos, and photos, customized for each person based on content that might be interesting to them," a Facebook spokesperson confirmed. "We’ve heard from people that they want an easy way to explore new content they haven’t connected with yet.”
Although Facebook's current News Feed algorithms are calculated to keep its users engaged with relevant content based on activity, it's not specifically designed for discovering other sources of information that users might find interesting. This alternate news feed aims to fill that hole.
This new feature is also in line with Facebook's strategy to make the traditional News Feed as a venue for personal and unique posts from friends rather than articles and reshares from brands, news outlets and Facebook Pages.
Facebook may have something here. However, although this second News Feed might help solve this Facebook content conundrum, rolling it out without any sort of warning to even the non-beta testing crowd is certainly bound to be a confusing affair.
What do you think? Is this alternate Facebook News Feed a good idea? Drop us a comment!