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Facebook abandons idea of a split news feed after test, axes Explore bookmark

Facebook’s news feed is not going to be split in two, after all. After testing a split news feed that separates friends from Pages, Facebook called the test unsuccessful and abandoned the idea. A split news feed, which would have been called the Explore Feed, would have made it possible for users to choose if they just wanted to see posts from friends, rather than public pages. Along with ending the tests, Facebook says the similarly named Explore bookmark that contained suggested content will also be discontinued.

Rather than the traditional news feed that mixes posts for followed friends, groups and pages, the tested feature would create one news feed with posts from friends, and another for finding new posts from Pages. Paid posts would have continued to be displayed in the friends feed, while organic reach would be limited to the second Pages feed.

Facebook tested the idea in six countries, Sri Lanka, Bolivia, Slovakia, Serbia, Guatemala, and Cambodia. That test didn’t go so well — surveyed users said that they were “less satisfied” with their news feed and that the change didn’t have the indented goal of helping users connect more with friends and family. (Snapchat’s ill-received update also splits friends from public accounts.)

The end of the test is likely a relief for Facebook Page owners. In the countries where Facebook began testing the features, several companies reported drops in engagement by as much as 60 to 80 percent. According to the analytics service CrowdTangle, Pages in the countries where the feature was being tested saw a loss between two-thirds and three-quarters of their reach overnight.

Pages come in many forms other than just businesses, including news outlets. the split news feed would have effectively removed actual news from the news feed, as Slovakian journalist Filip Struharik pointed out. A New York Times report looked into the countries that were part of the test earlier this year and found that the change also didn’t decrease the amount of fake news shared on the platform.

Facebook says its recent changes to the News Feed are already working toward the original goal of prioritizing “meaningful social interactions.” Another result of the test is that Facebook says communication on the testing process will be more clear following the response from users that were part of the testing.

The similarly named Explore Feed that is designed to help users find new Pages to follow will also be getting the ax. The Explore option left testing in October of last year, but Facebook now says that the section “isn’t an effective way for people to discover new content on Facebook.”

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