Facebook wants to know who your best friends are

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Answer

Facebook wants to keep News Feed relevant.

The social network is tweaking its News Feed algorithm to try and show more posts from your closest friends. In order to do that, though, the company is taking a somewhat new approach: asking users to straight-up tell them who their best friends are.

Facebook has always tried to predict who your closest friends are by looking at signals like who you interact with most often. But with the change, the company will start explicitly asking people who their best friends are to incorporate the information into their rankings.

"We’ve begun surveying people on Facebook to ask them to list the friends they are closest to," Facebook writes in a statement. "We look at the patterns that emerge from the results, some of which include being tagged in the same photos, continuously reacting and commenting on the same posts and checking-in at the same places — and then use these patterns to inform our algorithm."

The company says the change is meant to improve relevancy and that it "doesn’t mean you will necessarily see more friend content."

But the update does say a lot about how Facebook is thinking about the future of News Feed. Last month, the company showed off a redesigned app and website that places less emphasis on News Feed in order to show more content from Groups and Stories. And Mark Zuckerberg has repeatedly said he believes Facebook users are increasingly moving toward sharing more private and ephemeral content.

That's a problem for News Feed, which was built around the idea of mass sharing. And while News Feed isn't going away any time soon, a shift toward more content from "close friends" could help it feel more relevant.

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