Facebook's new Trending tab finds the most popular conversations

Hashtags. Embeddable posts. A focus on immediacy and popularity. Now, trending topics. No, this isn't Twitter. This is Facebook in its push to become a less-messy version of your community newspaper.

You'll notice the new Trending column on the right side of your News Feed, which reports indicate will soon look more like a newspaper than a social network. Facebook has been testing trending topics, a Twitter staple, since August.

Trending is "designed to surface interesting and relevant conversations in order to help you discover the best content from all across Facebook," engineering manager Chris Struhar said in a Thursday blog post.

Struhar said the list includes topics that are popular across the network as well as ones that are more relevant to you.

This may seem like more evidence of Facebook following Twitter's lead, but in Facebook's case, Trending will be a lot more personal. Each topic will be followed by a description so you know why it's trending (an upcoming event, a celebrity in the news), and clicking through will take you to posts by your friends about the topic or popular pages that are discussing the topic.

Twitter's trending topics take you to a complete, unfiltered timeline of random people who have hashtagged their tweets or used a specific phrase. Topics that trend on Twitter tend to be really terrible--currently "What the heck is curling?" is trending on Twitter. That one's pretty benign. Often more offensive topics find their way to the top.

It seems like Facebook will focus on newsworthy topics over memes--at least, that's the direction it's heading in lately. A Facebook spokesperson said Trending's algorithms will use a mix of hashtags and topics to bring the most interesting subjects to the top.

Trending is Facebook's way of leveraging the billions--trillions?--of pieces of information users offer up every day and making conversations more easily searchable. Trending topics sure are easier to navigate than Graph Search ever was.

Though Facebook initially tested Trending on mobile (and continues to do so), the feature is desktop-only for now.


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