There’s a lot about Facebook algorithms we don’t know. While the News Feed purports to be based on a handful of things Facebook has revealed, it’s still as random and angering as ever. The social says that it’s highly based off of your friends and your “closeness” to them – and if that’s so, what powers the algorithm that Facebook uses to determine which friends we’re close to?
Your Facebook friends each have a rank, and this rank will affect what you see on a few different areas of the site; for instance it determines the Friends section when you look at someone’s Timeline, it determines what names come up first when you search for someone or try to tag someone, whose birthdays are displayed first in the sidebar list, and as previously explained it has a heavy hand in your News Feed.
Friends are a very important cog in the Facebook machine and they are responsible for why we see many of the things we do on the site. But how do we absolutely know that Facebook is ranking them correctly? We don’t – but a developer’s new tool does. Arjun Sreedharan has created a plugin that generates a list of your Facebook friends as Facebook itself sees it.
“This is the data from an endpoint that Facebook exposes to the client – the Web browser in this case – when a user logs on to Facebook,” Sreedharan tells me. “From my observation, I think it can be safely assumed that Facebook uses these scores to rank other users relative to the logged-in user.”
“On the factors that affect the rankings, only Facebook could give a definitive answer. This is the output of their algorithm, we don’t know exactly how they calculate the score. However, one can be sure if you stalk or frequently ‘like’ a particular user or user’s content, that user would go up in the ranking.”
He also mentions that while Facebook will offer pieces of its data, it doesn’t expose the meaning of them. However, according to what Facebook made available, this is likely a close if not exact approximation of how Facebook ranks your friends.
All you have to do is drag the link to your bookmark bar, log in to Facebook, then click. Then you’ll see a list of names, the top-most being what Facebook considers you’re “top” friends, and so on and so forth. “[The] smaller the friend’s score, [the] higher the rank,” Sreedharan explains on his blog.
Looking at my own results, most of the top spots make sense: People I’m often tagged at locations and in pictures with, who Like my posts and I like theirs. Then there are a few whose pages I visit more often than others (no shame), and then there are a few confusing names – like those I just became friends with (so perhaps I recently looked at their profiles, but in the scheme of things, we’re not all that close). Or a couple who interact often with people I interact with … but honestly I don’t care about their Facebook activity all that much.
Point being, Facebook knows who you’re watching – which should come at no surprise. And while there isn’t a whole lot you can do with the list, there are two things it reveals: A little more insight into why you see the things you do on Facebook, and maybe whose profile you should be stalking a little less.