Back in June, Facebook said it would be rolling out a number of features for following public conversations, and it looks like the company’s holding true to that promise.
Specifically, the company is testing a section highlighting “Trending” topics that appears alongside its desktop newsfeed. The Wall Street Journal first reported on the test, and it included a screenshot (which you can see to the left) that looks pretty much as you’d expect — a box with a list of linked topics.
A Facebook spokesperson sent me the following statement:
We are running a small test of a unit on News Feed that displays topics currently trending on Facebook. Right now it’s only available to a small percentage of US users and it is still in the early stages of development. We will share more details down the line if we decide to roll it out more widely.
Facebook has been moving towards something like this for the past couple of months. It launched searchable hashtags in June, and those are all about making it easy for people to see related conversations around a single topic. At the time, the company said it would be “rolling out a series of features that surface some of the interesting discussions people are having about public events, people, and topics.” Then, earlier this month, it started showing trending topics to some mobile web users.
Trend-based navigation is a pretty natural outgrowth of adding hashtags, so it might seem strange that Facebook is taking a while to go from one to another. However, public-private dynamics can work pretty differently on Facebook than on Twitter (where the hashtag/Trending Topics ideas were popularized), so I imagine Facebook is using tests to make sure this approach makes sense with its more private model.