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Facebook is ending its terrible Explore Feed experiment

Reuters/Joshua Roberts
Failed experimenting.
By Hanna Kozlowska
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Facebook is ending its controversial “Explore Feed” feature, an experiment that seemed to be doomed from the very beginning.

The test, launched in six countries in October, involved separating users’ feeds into two—one for posts from friends and family, and the other for news and other content. The company said users had been telling it that they wanted to see more updates from their personal connections. A different version of the feed was available in the rest of the world, and it will also be discontinued this week. 

“You gave us our answer: People don’t want two separate feeds,” wrote Adam Mosseri, the head of News Feed at Facebook, in a post on March 1. “In surveys, people told us they were less satisfied with the posts they were seeing, and having two separate feeds didn’t actually help them connect more with friends and family.”

The test also roiled the media industry, causing outright panic among publishers in the six countries where it was introduced, and a wave of anxiety elsewhere, with outlets fearing they’d have to start paying for any of their content to be front-and-center for users. After severely curtailing the reach of independent publishers in the six countries, journalists accused the platform of experimenting with their fragile democracies. “We didn’t communicate the test clearly,” Mosseri wrote about the media complaints. 

The version of the feed that was visible to users worldwide, in a separate tab, showed users what Facebook’s algorithm thought they’d be interested in discovering, content from Pages they didn’t already follow. This resulted in what Quartz reporters had alternatively described as a “less-enticing mirror image of my regular News Feed,” “the absolute dredges of the internet,” and “a distillation of the worst parts of Facebook.” It was memes, viral videos, fake news stories, and many types of random posts.

“We concluded that Explore isn’t an effective way for people to discover new content on Facebook,” Mosseri wrote.

In order to address user feedback that they wanted to see more content from family and friends, Facebook announced earlier this year that it would be prioritizing that content over posts from news organizations or brands.

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