With projects like Internet.org, Facebook has shown that it is interested in getting the world connected. But the truth of the matter is that no matter where you may be in the world, there are times when it can be impossible to get a decent phone signal to allow you to post a photo of your meal.
Joking aside, in countries where people are struggling with 2G connections or otherwise unreliable signals, making use of Facebook’s News Feed can be difficult. The social network is rolling out new technology that will make it possible for people with slow connections to now only see relevant news stories on a poor connection, but also post comments when offline.
Facebook has learned that few people take the time to scroll through their News Feed in its entirety. A new update takes this into account — when a user tries to look at their News Feed when they have no signal, as-yet-unseen but already downloaded stories will be surfaced so there is still ‘new’ content to read.
Writing on the Facebook engineering blog, Chris Marra and Alex Sourov explain what is being done to improve the user experience:
We also factor in whether the images for the story are available. This way we can immediately display relevant stories you haven’t seen yet, instead of showing a spinner while you wait for new stories. When we receive new stories from the server when you’re back online, we load and rank those stories normally. We rank relevant, already downloaded stories upon startup of the app, when you navigate to News Feed from the app or pull down to refresh stories at the top of your feed, or as you are scrolling through your News Feed.
This is not the end of things, however. An experiment is also underway that sees News Feed content being updated periodically, whenever a connection is available so there is genuinely new content to see when the Facebook app is loaded. A similar technique is being used to allow for ‘offline’ commenting. Comments can be written and pseudo-posted even if there is no connection available, and they will be posted as soon as possible.