Facebook’s Latest Update Shows It Wants to Beat Twitter at News

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Twitter has become one of the
easiest, fastest ways to get and
disseminate the news. Facebook
wants to change that.
Earlier this year, Facebook launched
Trending Topics to help its more
than 1 billion users find the news
stories that everyone was talking
about. Now, the internet giant is
taking that one step further with an
update that could make it an easier
place to navigate news than that
other notable social networking
service, Twitter.
On Wednesday, Facebook
announced that it would be
releasing Trending Topics on mobile
and adding new ways to sort
through them. Now, when you click
on a topic, you’ll see not only
articles, but Facebook posts from
users who are “near the scene,”
posts from people who are involved
in the story in some way, posts
from friends and members of
groups you belong to, and a live
feed of user reactions around the
world. You can select which feed
you want to view. It seems like a
small change, but it addresses a
very big problem that Twitter has
yet to solve, which is, how do you
organize such a constant flow of
information?

Twitter has tried to address this
issue with hashtags, which you can
sort based on things like location,
who you follow, and what’s
included in the post, and yet, the
results lack a certain order. Select
results from “people you follow”
and you might find a friend’s Tweet
below a Tweet from a news outlet
below a Tweet from a celebrity.
Facebook’s new Trending Topics let
people filter by context.
While Facebook hasn’t admitted
outright that this is a swipe at
Twitter’s market, it’s clear that
Facebook has the microblogging
service in its crosshairs in more
ways than one. On Wednesday,
Facebook-owned Instagram also
tried to drum up some excitement,
announcing the app has surpassed
300 million monthly active users. It
would be an arbitrary number—big,
but arbitrary—except for the fact
that it makes Instagram larger than
Twitter. And in another unspoken
nod to Twitter, Instagram is also
launching verified badges for
celebrities and public figures.
Facebook is already winning the
numbers battle against Twitter.
That said, while Twitter’s
reputation as a news outlet is
already well defined, Facebook’s
has been slow to take shape
because of how its News Feed is
organized. Unlike Twitter,
Facebook’s feed is determined by
algorithms, which tend to surface
content similar to what a given user
has clicked on in the past, which
can lead to less than comprehensive
news. But this new, easy-to-
understand approach to Trending
Topics could hasten Facebook’s
development as a robust news
source, and for Twitter, that could
be dangerous.

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