Ever wonder what the most popular conversations are on Facebook? The company debuted “Trending” today, a new feature that highlights popular conversations across the service. It’s supposed to answer that question, but unfortunately, there aren’t enough public conversations on the social network to truly measure what people are saying.
Trending shows users’ popular posts in the righthand corner of their screen, next to the Newsfeed. “Each topic is accompanied by a headline that briefly explains why it is trending. You can click on any headline to see the most interesting posts from your friends or Pages that are talking about that particular topic,” Facebook engineer Chris Struhar wrote in a blog post.
If you don’t see it yet, the new feature is still rolling out, and will be available first in the U.S., U.K., Canada, India, and Australia.
And if you think this is eerily familiar, you may be a Twitter user: Twitter has a “Trending Topics” feature that displays popular topics according to geographic location. This is clearly another case of Facebook tweaking a winning Twitter formula and applying it to the larger social network.
Facebook is focused on becoming a public-facing news source, but it hasn’t convinced users to change the way they post. Trending only picks up stories posted publicly, while most users prefer to limit their audience. This means it’s just not going to be particularly reflective of the actual conversations happening on Facebook until the company successfully cajoles users into writing and sharing things for the general public. Just as Facebook hashtags are largely useless, don’t expect Trending to be much different.
Trending might not be particularly useful now, but if Facebook achieves its goal of nudging users into public posts, it will become a much more relevant feature – so I suppose it’s smart that the company is setting up an infrastructure now to encourage the changes in user behavior they want.
Then again, Facebook is losing its appeal among young people – and this move smacks of desperation. Teens don’t like the desperate.