Users will be able to go through the Facebook News Feed regardless of the speed of their Internet connections, as the website has introduced new ways of displaying and prioritizing content.
This update is especially designed for people located in emergent markets, where 4G LTE connections aren’t commonplace. Instead, users from these areas usually have a 2G connection, with low Internet speeds.
“What this means for us on the News Feed team is making sure people can load and scroll through News Feed on any connection speed”, summarized a blog post authored by Alex Sourov, Facebook engineering manager, and Chris Marra, Facebook emerging markets product manager.
Normally, News feeds usually provide information overload, consisting in numerous posts, auto-playing videos, and high-resolution photo albums. This string of flashy updates may be engaging, but it can’t be easily accessible to people who have slower Internet speeds. As a result, many users are left frustrated when graphic content fails to load and all they can see is a series of blank squares.
In response to this problem, the recent Facebook tweak allows the News Feed to adapt itself depending on the Internet connection’s reliability. This is achieved through a tool called Network Connection Class, which tests broadband speed at any given moment.
For example, if Internet signal is weak, the social networking platform will focus on loading the content that the user is actually viewing. Once that information is properly displayed, as the reader is going through the post, the website will start retrieving other stories as well.
This way, after the user has begun scrolling down, content will appear much faster. Before this upgrade, the website had tried to display several news items at the same time. This made them load at incredibly slow speeds, since bandwidth had to be divided between each story.
Moreover, Facebook will be prioritizing the updates that it will be displaying, by focusing mostly on content that takes less time to load, such as status updates or links. On the other hand, bandwidth consumption related to streaming videos will be reduced, by avoiding to load such items in the feed.
The networking platform will also be incorporating a new picture format called Progressive JPEG, which initially shows pictures at lower resolution, until they are fully loaded and can be displayed at their original quality. Previously, just a blank space would appear when Facebook members were trying to download high definition images on a limited bandwidth.
In addition, if Internet connection is lost, the social network will no longer present the user with a blank page. Instead, it will show a cached version of the posts that had already been scrolled in the News Feed.
These measures are all part of company’s mission to make the service more widely available, by streamlining and propagating content on a larger scale.
Executives are savvy enough to realize that the expansion of their 1.5 billion user base can only be achieved by focusing on the developing world. It comes as no surprise therefore that Facebook has partnered up with Eutelsat recently , in an effort to provide satellite-based Internet connection to mobile users from densely populated areas in East, West and Southern Africa.
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