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article imageYou can now view, like and comment on Facebook while offline

By James Walker     Dec 13, 2015 in Internet
Facebook has announced that its app can now display News Feed stories even while offline or on a slow connection. The feature will be an invaluable addition for users in emerging markets, many of whom remain restricted to 2G mobile Internet.
Facebook explained how "offline News Feed" works in a blog post this week. When using a fast and reliable Internet connection, Facebook's app downloads and caches all the unread posts when it is launched. Most people never scroll through all the content though so there is usually some downloaded news left unread when the app is closed.
Facebook now keeps track of which stories have been seen. It then uses this information to display the others when on a poor Internet connection. Instead of leaving the user staring at a blank screen as the app tries to download more content, it ranks the remaining cached posts based on relevance and date to show you things you haven't looked at before. When a connection to Facebook's server becomes available, the app loads the new stories and ranks them accordingly too.
Facebook explained: "In the past, if you were on a poor internet connection or had no connection, you might need to wait for stories to load when you opened News Feed. We are now testing an update in which we look at all the previously downloaded stories present on your phone that you have not yet viewed, and rank them based on their relevance. We also factor in whether the images for the story are available. This way we can immediately display relevant stories you haven't seen yet, instead of showing a spinner while you wait for new stories. When we receive new stories from the server when you're back online, we load and rank those stories normally."
Attempts are made to get new content when the app is launched and when you navigate to News Feed. Facebook is also looking at ways to periodically retrieve new posts throughout the day when a stable Internet connection is available, letting it present you with fresher, more relevant content when you're offline.
The company isn't stopping there though. You can now comment on posts while offline, leaving it up to the app to automatically upload it when you're next connected to the Internet. The feature joins the ability to like and share content while offline, both of which operate in the same way as offline commenting.
Facebook says the improvements will be most helpful to its users in emerging markets with frequently unstable Internet and 2G as the best available connection. People are gaining Internet access in these regions at a "staggering rate" but often the services they use aren't optimised for low-bandwidth networks.
Facebook also sees offline mode as a useful tool in developed nations too, noting that people travelling in a subway tunnel often want to use the time to check what their friends are doing but can’t due to a lack of mobile signal.
The aim of offline News Feed is to make it operate well regardless of device or network connection. Facebook isn't comfortable with assuming all its users have fibre broadband at home and 4G on the go, recognising that modern infrastructure remains in the distant future for millions worldwide. The company said: "We're excited to continue improving News Feed for everyone, no matter your connection speed or device."
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