Facebook Will Start Prioritizing Fast-Loading Websites in News Feeds

The sun is shining, trains are running and Facebook is tweaking news feeds again.

The algorithm behind the ever-evolving Facebook news feed is being changed to take into account how quickly (or slowly, in this case) a web page loads after a user clicks on it from their mobile device. If a story loads slowly, Facebook will punish it by decreasing its overall reach, while prioritizing stories that load faster.

There is a threshold as to what “fast” and “slow” means here, but because that number may fluctuate and evolve as internet access speeds up (or becomes throttled), the exact numbers are being kept secret.

According to Facebook, as many as 40 per cent of website visitors abandon a page if it takes more than three seconds to load. There a few different things that may affect a webpage load time, and Facebook is trying to address them.

“Factors such as the person’s current network connection and the general speed of the corresponding web page will be considered,” wrote engineers on Facebook’s newsroom. “If signals indicate the webpage will load quickly, the link to that web page might appear higher in your feed.”

This news feed change is designed to ultimately help users and keep them engaged, but some have speculated there is an ulterior motive.

Facebook wants to start hosting outlet’s stories on its own website, resulting in pages loading much quicker. These are called Instant Articles. Facebook has admitted that while Instant Articles do not receive any kind of preferential treatment in terms of weight on a news feed, these new loading time changes will result in them becoming more visible for a typical user.

Instant Articles have been around for a couple years now, but businesses and outlets have not been huge fans yet. Using these Facebook hosted articles usually results in less ad money than driving viewers to the host sites themselves.

The changes to news feeds will start happening in early September. Facebook has promised that most website owners will not see too much of a decline in traffic or redirects, unless your site is very slow. Facebook also published some best practices for mobile site owners to improve load times and provide better experiences.