After years of sorting news feeds primarily by algorithm, Facebook is letting users choose what they want to see first.
An update to Facebook’s iOS app expands the existing “News Feed Preferences” section with a way to choose whose updates appear at the top of the timeline. A similar update is coming to Facebook’s Android app and desktop website in the coming weeks.
Users can check out the new settings by pressing the “More” button in the Facebook app’s bottom-right corner, then tapping on “News Feed Preferences” and selecting “Prioritize who to see first.” This brings up a list of friends and Pages that users can mark as favorites. Unread updates from favorite contacts will always appear at the top of the News Feed, overriding Facebook’s predictive algorithms.
This preferences menu also lets users “unfollow” certain contacts, which simply hides their updates without severing the friendship. Other options include a way to discover new Pages based on ones that users have liked in the past, and a “reconnect” menu that shows a list of unfollowed friends.
Why this matters: Until now, Facebook has relied extensively on its own algorithms to decide what users see, drawing on their histories of likes, comments, and other interactions. But machine learning doesn’t always work perfectly, and can leave people with News Feeds that they’re less likely to interact with in the first place. Users have always wanted ways around the algorithm—just look at the number of people trying to sort their feeds chronologically—and the new preferences are one way to add greater flexibility.