Facebook News Feed to cater to slow, flaky connections

Facebook, like Google and some other tech companies, have become very enthusiastic, perhaps even obsessed, with bringing the Internet to as many people as possible, either through balloons or lasers, or both. Bringing the Internet to everyone has the happy consequence of also opening up Facebook to new users as well. But even those already with Internet connections enjoy good quality connections every time and all the time. To make sure that those factors don't deprive users of the enjoyment of using Facebook, the social networking giant is rolling out some changes to make Facebook usable, or at least bearable, under constrained networks.

On Mac OS X, it's the pinwheel of death. On YouTube and Facebook, it's the spinner of boredom. Wherever you go, having to wait for content to finish loading or even load in the first place is always an exercise in patience. Lost connections mean lost customers, which Facebook will have none off. Thus, it's software engineering team has been tasked with improving the News Feed experience to work with unstable or even non-existent connections, which it is delivering in two ways.

The first is with the News Feed itself. To lessen the time users have to wait for new, unread content to load, Facebook will employ a little "cheat". When you first load up the Facebook app, it will download a list of relevant stories and place them on the News Feed. Most users, however, don't always get to finish reading through this. What Facebook does is to cache some of those unread posts so that they can instantly be loaded up the next time the app is started without a good Internet connection. The app will then fetch new stories from the server when the Internet is back up again.

Facebook will also be allowing users to comment while offline. Previously, offline interactions with posts were limited to liking or sharing. Now users can compose and leave comments as well, secure in the knowledge that. If and when they get an Internet connection, those comments will automatically be posted.

Facebook is really earnest in making its service work for those with slower or intermittent Internet connections. In addition to releasing a lite version of the Facebook app for certain markets, the company has initiated a "2G Tuesdays" campaign to force its employees to think and feel slow Internet. This new News Feed feature could very well have been one of the fruits of that rather crazy but apparently effective strategy.

SOURCE: Facebook (1), (2)