Facebook tries to limit over-sharing

The company said it would be de-emphaizing certain posts from outside apps

Facebook users annoyed with posts from their friends about what songs they're listening to or which earrings they want will soon have less to complain about.

The company said Tuesday that it would be de-emphasizing in people's news feeds posts from outside apps that are shared automatically, in favor of posts that people explicitly share. These posts could take the form of songs listened to in Spotify, or retail items pinned in Pinterest, which would appear both in the news feed as well as in the right-hand "ticker" rail.

The move follows feedback Facebook had received from users who had felt surprised or confused by such posts. The company said Tuesday that these sorts of posts have been on the decline, which may be correlated with how often people mark them as spam.

With the change, Facebook appears to be distancing itself from the idea of having its site function as a constant stream of people's activities, however mundane. Instead, Facebook is encouraging app developers to incorporate new tools into their apps to give users more control over what they share.

"In general, we found that people engage more with stories that are shared explicitly rather than implicitly," the company said in its announcement. In the coming months, Facebook said, "we will continue to prioritize explicitly shared stories from apps in News Feed and Ticker over implicitly shared stories."

Facebook serves as the entry portal for the many third-party apps that let users log in automatically when they log into Facebook. Automatic sharing on Facebook may have helped to promote these apps to other would-be users, but Facebook is now discouraging the practice.

Facebook did not say it would be entirely eliminating capabilities around automatic sharing. Instead, the company is steering app developers toward different sharing controls. Some of these controls, such as anonymous logins, were unveiled recently at the company's F8 developers show.

One new tool is the availability of the "Like" button for mobile apps, which would share content from the app to Facebook, but only with the user's tap, of course. There is also a mechanism app developers can use to share their content on other services like Facebook and Facebook's Messenger app. Facebook said apps including Redfin and Goodreads are in the process of integrating that tool.

Facebook routinely tweaks its news feed algorithm. The company said late last year that it would be prioritizing "high-quality content" like news articles. "High quality" is subjective, but Tuesday's change show the company addressing content that many people agreed was low quality.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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