Facebook may be looking to take Twitter head-on with a new feature of its News Feed called “Happening Now.” The real-time update feature, which has similarities to a Twitter friend feed, is still very much in its testing phase, though a small percentage of users have access to the feature now.
From what we can tell from our limited vantage point, “Happening Now” provides Facebook users with automatic updates about what their friends are doing on the social network, like adding pictures, “Liking” posts or editing their profiles.
The feature was first publicly discovered by Amit Misra, a writer for Dazeinfo. He noticed the feature when he logged in to Facebook, but wasn’t initially sure whether he was supposed to be seeing the change.
“At this point of time, I am also not sure whether this is a world-wide release or roll-out will be in phases for millions of users as traditional process of Facebook,” writes Misra. “However, I must pat Facebook for making cool ‘News Feed’ section pretty impressive, simple and attractive.”
Facebook later confirmed the alpha roll-out of “Happening Now,” telling The Next Web that the company is “currently testing a feature within News Feed that gives people the ability to see what their friends are commenting on and ‘liking’, as these actions are being taken on Facebook.”
“This test includes a small percentage of Facebook users, just a fraction of a percent,” the statement continues. “In the coming weeks, as we learn more from this test, we’ll keep making improvements and may expand it to more people.”
Unlike the standard News Feed, “Happening Now” only shows a vague mention of what a user is doing, something like “So-and-so has posted something via TweetDeck.” Friends can click on the “Happening Now” post, and see a more detailed view, much like what one sees on the News Feed.
In its current form, “Happening Now” doesn’t appear to be much of a threat to Twitter, but rather an cool bonus for Facebook that adds some much-needed real-time action to the News Feed. Now, if they could just change the default setting to display “Most Recent” posts instead of “Top News,” then they’d really be onto something.