Earlier this year, Facebook was spotted testing a new type of News Feed – one that designed to help you discover content across the social network, beyond posts from friends and Pages you already follow. During tests, the feed was available through the Facebook app underneath a “rocket ship” icon – something that seemed to confuse users, who didn’t understand the feed’s purpose.
Now this alternative feed is showing up for users under Facebook’s “More” menu, where it’s simply named “Explore Feed.” (One earlier test on iOS had labeled the feed “Explore” back in the beginning of the year, and apparently that name has stuck.)
The “More” menu is where Facebook today steadily rolls out its new features as the social network expands to be more of an online portal, connecting you to resources within its own walls so that you won’t turn to Google, the web, or other mobile apps.
For example, this menu is now home to things like Weather, Jobs, Games, Sports, Fundraisers, a “Find Wi-Fi” utility, and more. It’s also where Facebook launched its government-focused Town Hall feature, as well as its new Uber Eats and Seamless competitor, Order Food (which Papa John’s just joined this week, we should note.)
The Explore Feed’s presence in this section hints at Facebook’s plans for a broader rollout, rather than a small experiment.
But Facebook says it’s still considered a test, despite this prominent placement in Facebook’s main navigation.
“We are testing a complementary feed of popular articles, videos, and photos, customized for each person based on content that might be interesting to them,” a spokesperson told TechCrunch. “We’ve heard from people that they want an easy way to explore new content they haven’t connected with yet.”
With Explore Feed, the goal is to connect users to Facebook’s broader network of news and information. The feed itself consists of posts, articles, photos and videos from sources you haven’t yet followed – like Facebook Pages or posts from news organizations.
However, it’s not just a random selection.
The Explore Feed consists of content from Facebook Pages that are similar to those you’ve already liked, as well as those popular with friends – like a video that a number of people in your network are watching, for instance.
Facebook has for some time been working on a way to better leverage its deep understanding of a user’s likes and interests in different ways, largely to help increase users’ time on site, and therefore, Facebook’s bottom line.
Even as far back as 2010, the network was experimenting with ways to help members curate their interests in order to find Pages they would like. In 2014, it tried a standalone app called Rooms that aimed to help people connect over shared interests, even if they weren’t friends. (The app was later shut down).
But Facebook users still gravitate towards their News Feed for discovery purposes.
With Explore Feed’s shift to the “More” menu, there’s also now an introduction to the feed for first-time users, which should help clear up some of the earlier confusion.
After tapping on the menu option, you’re directed to a separate page where a big illustration – with a rocket – that explains, “Welcome to Explore Feed,” along with the subheading: “Top posts for you, from across Facebook.”
In my own tests, I found Explore Feed to be a fairly reliable source of new content to check out, though it doesn’t consist entirely of posts I’d consider “informative.” (But do I hate that the first thing I saw was a puppy video? Nope, not really.) Beyond that, Facebook surfaced content that matched up with my political views, as well as my interests in tech, parenting, media and entertainment.
The Explore Feed is appearing on Facebook’s mobile app, but is not yet showing on desktop as far as we can tell. Not everyone will have the feed in their app at this time, but you should definitely check.