Facebook Is Testing This Major Change

In a handful of countries.

Facebook said on Monday it was testing the idea of dividing its News Feed in two, separating commercial posts from personal news in a move that could lead some businesses to increase advertising.

The Facebook News Feed, the centerpiece of the world’s largest social network service, is a streaming series of posts such as photos from friends, updates from family members, advertisements and material from celebrities or other pages that a user has liked.

The test, which is occurring in six smaller countries, now offers two user feeds, according to a statement from the company: one feed focused on friends and family and a second dedicated to the pages that the customer has liked.

The change could force those who run pages, everyone from news outlets to musicians to sports teams, to pay to run advertisements if they want to be seen in the feed that is for friends and family.

The test is taking place in Bolivia, Cambodia, Guatemala, Serbia, Slovakia and Sri Lanka, and it will likely go on for months, Adam Mosseri, the Facebook executive in charge of the News Feed, said in a blog post.

Mosseri said the company has no plans for a global test of the two separate feeds for its 2 billion users.

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Facebook also does not currently plan to force commercial pages “to pay for all their distribution,” he said.

Facebook, based in Menlo Park, Calif., frequently tests changes big and small as it tries to maximize the time people spend scrolling and browsing the network. Sometimes it makes changes permanent, and other times not.

Depending on how people respond, two news feeds could mean that they see fewer links to news stories. News has proved to be a tricky area for Facebook, as hoaxes and false news stories have sometimes spread easily on the network.

The test has already affected website traffic for smaller media outlets in recent days, Slovakian journalist Filip Struhárik wrote over the weekend in a post on Medium.

Publishers might need to buy more Facebook ads to be seen, he wrote: “If you want your Facebook page posts to be seen in old newsfeed, you have to pay.”

Tech

Are West Virginia’s Floods The Result Of Climate Change? And A Congressman Gone AWOL

For a state that has been racked with recession and unemployment, the flash floods that have ravaged West Virginia don’t help much. But the key question to ask — no matter how unpleasant — is whether the coal sector there shares some of the blame. At issue is the concept of climate change and whether the warmer atmosphere is holding more water and therefore intensifying the storms. To that end, West Virginia’s prime industry has been coal, a fuel that when burned is responsible for a third of all human-induced carbon emissions. Even more, the surface mining that has occurred is lopping off whole mountaintops and removing the vegetation, leaving the landscape vulnerable to erosion. The water running off the mountain is thus more rapid, adding to the problem of flash flooding, says Kathleen Miller, a scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., in a phone interview. “The climate is highly variable and you can’t attribute specific events to climate change,” adds Dr. Miller. “But when you look long term, many environmental changes are all pointing in the same direction and supporting the conclusion that global climate change is underway: melting sea ice, melting glaciers and rising sea levels. “It is the weight of the evidence that must be considered.” 


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