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article imageFacebook axes unpopular 'Explore' experiment

By James Walker     Mar 2, 2018 in Technology
Facebook has announced it will withdraw a trial News Feed feature called Explore. The company has been experimenting with Explore to discover whether people want Facebook to separate posts from Pages and individuals. The results weren't encouraging.
The feature was launched in October 2017 as one of Facebook's attempts to make the News Feed more useful to its users. Explore separated the News Feed into two distinct streams, effectively creating two places to visit if you wanted to view all unread posts. One feed displayed posts from friends and family while the other was dedicated to content from businesses and Pages.
Facebook regularly trials new features by launching them to a small selection of users. While there's no guarantee any new addition will be broadly deployed, it is rare that the company publicly admits an experiment has gone wrong. Explore is an exception though, with Facebook now announcing that it will be restoring the old behaviour for people who currently have access.
In a news post this week, Facebook said that Explore was created based on "consistent feedback" from people looking for a more personal News Feed. However, users trialling the new capability were clear that they "don't want" two separate feeds. Although people want to see less posts from Pages, the idea of completely separating Pages and individuals has proved to be a step too far.
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"To understand if people might like two separate feeds, we started a test in October 2017 in six countries. You gave us our answer: People don't want two separate feeds," said Facebook. "In surveys, people told us they were less satisfied with the posts they were seeing, and having two separate feeds didn't actually help them connect more with friends and family."
Explore has already been partially superseded by newer alterations to the News Feed. Earlier this year, Facebook announced sweeping changes to the way in which it will display posts to users. Going forwards, posts from friends and family members will be prioritised above content from Pages.
Page content will still be displayed but it's likely to appear below posts, photos and videos contributed by individuals. The decision seems to more accurately reflect the News Feed experience that Facebook users want, moving the platform towards a healthier balance between friends and Pages. Facebook has admitted the change will lead to decreased views on Page content, which could directly reduce revenue for the company and its platform publishers.
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