By now, most people know that their comments, likes, clicks, and shares on Facebook affect what they ultimately see on the social network. But Facebook revealed today that it has tweaked its news feed algorithm to also take into account the time people spend on posts, even if they don’t take any actions. That’s right, Facebook knows when you’re lurking.
The company said it made the change, which is in the process of being rolled out to all users, based on people’s feedback. “[J]ust because someone didn’t like, comment or share a story in their News Feed doesn’t mean it wasn’t meaningful to them,” it said in a blog post.
But the modification isn’t as simple as counting the number of seconds people spend on posts. Those with slower internet connections, for instance, are likely to spend more time on stories due to the loading time. So Facebook will look at how much time a post spends on a user’s screen relative to other posts presented in the user’s news feed. Based on that, it will surface similar stories higher up in the feed. (A spokesperson for the company tells Quartz that Facebook is able to tell if a user is actively looking at the social network on a computer, or if the site is open in a tab or window in the background.)
Until now, Facebook has relied primarily on users’ actions to measure engagement. Time spent with a post is a much more passive signal to pick up on.