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You Can Now Just Tell Facebook What You Want to See in News Feed

"Tell me what you want, what you really really want." -- Spice Girls and Facebook

Nitrozac & Snaggy

Facebook has come up with a new, simple approach to determine what you want to see at the top of your News Feed: It’s going to ask you.

The social network, which is known for its ever-evolving News Feed algorithm, is rolling out a new “See First” option on Thursday, a way for people to identify up to 30 people or pages that will automatically appear at the top of their News Feed whenever they open Facebook.

While the idea of straight-up asking people what they want to see may seem obvious, it’s uncommon for Facebook. The company has spent years building a system that automatically sifts through the thousands of things you could see every day to determine the dozens or hundreds it’s going to show you. To improve the system, Facebook takes into account what you click on, which friends you engage with and even how much time you spend watching video.

Facebook

But the algorithm isn’t perfect, in part because most of the signals it relies on are subtle or inferred. There are ways to tell Facebook what you like or dislike — you can hide posts or mark a friend as “close” — but even those don’t guarantee you will or will not see something the next time you visit the service.

But while See First should help you find what you’re looking for, it could impact Facebook’s business. If all the things you want to see on Facebook are sitting at the top of the News Feed each time you log in, you may not want to scroll through hunting for interesting posts. That time spent scrolling is where Facebook makes its money by showing you ads.

It’s an issue Twitter actually dealt with over the past year. It retired its Timeline Views metric that measured how often people refreshed the Twitter feed, arguing that as the product improves, you find what you’re looking for faster and spend less time searching.

That’s the hope with Facebook as well. If Facebook can make your initial experience with News Feed better, it believes you’ll come back more often.

“It sounds counterintuitive, but the worse we do on rankings, the more we make people try and scroll through, the more likely they are to just go away,” a company spokesperson told Re/code. “If we show you the stuff you really really want first, you’ll come back more often.”

The company won’t use your See First list to target you with ads, according to Greg Marra, a News Feed product manager. In other words, if you choose to see posts from Nike at the top of your feed, an advertiser won’t show you an ad because of that decision.

You can get See First and a redesigned Preferences section of the Facebook app Thursday as part of an app update on iOS. The update will come to Android and the Web later on.

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.

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