Facebook taps algorithm to improve Trending Topics feature

Facebook has detailed some changes with Trending Topics, the small feature that earned it a bunch of controversy earlier this year. Among the changes, says Facebook, is that from now on an algorithm will be dealing with Trending Topics as the social network eliminates human-written topic summaries. As a result, the topics will look more simplistic, and will show how many people are talking about the topic rather than a description of what the topic is about.

The Trending Topics feature is relatively new to Facebook, having first been launched in 2014. The idea is that a lot of people are talking about a lot of things on Facebook, and this makes it easier for any given user to see what others are talking about. Clicking a Trending Topic will pull up posts by other users, providing a sort of narrow news portal.

Having humans write summaries, though, inherently limits how many topics Facebook can provide in any given time. That's at odds with Facebook's stated goal of enabling 'Trending for as many people as possible.' By relying more on the algorithm and ditching the summaries, Facebook can deliver a higher number of trending items to more people.

You'll still be able to see what the topic is about, though, by hovering over it — some news article that covers the topic will show up in a preview window, and you'll see that publication's small summary. Facebook isn't getting rid of humans altogether, though, as it needs them to ensure that the trending items are sensible and of a high quality, and not something that's highly discussed but mundane — such as "lunch," which Facebook points out is frequently talked about but not something that should be flagged as trending in this case.

SOURCE: Facebook