Facebook adds trending topics

Last updated 12:07 17/01/2014

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In a move that echoes Twitter, Facebook is adding a feature to its service that lets users know the topics of discussion that are trending among the site's 1.2 billion users, whether it's the death of a world leader or the Oscars.

Users in the US, UK, India, Canada and Australia will begin seeing a list of trending topics on the right side of their Facebook pages in coming weeks. It will be available in more countries later on.

Trending topics won't be available on the mobile version of Facebook, but the company said it's testing the feature in its app for smartphones and tablet computers.

Facebook, which signalled last year that it would introduce trending topics at some point, said that the topics people see will be tailored to the user's interests and location. On Thursday, two users saw topics that included the Academy Awards, American Idol and Republican Senator David Vitter from Louisiana.

Unlike Twitter, which simply lists topics, Facebook's trending section explains why a particular topic is trending. In this case, the 2014 Academy Award nominations were announced, American Idol named new judges and promised a new attitude and Vitter introduced a bill that would require people show photo IDs to make purchases with food stamps.

Chris Stuhar, a software engineer at Facebook, who works on the site's news feed, said the feature was designed to uncover the most interesting content across the site and fitted into the company's broader effort to make Facebook "your personal newspaper".

Facebook is already seen as a place where users go to find out what their friends and family are up to. Stuhar said learning that a friend got married or discovering what his friends were doing on a Friday night was "certainly news," but Facebook had a "much broader vision of where we want news feed to go in the future".

Facebook's new feature represented another move onto Twitter's turf. Right now, Twitter was seen as the place people went to have public conversations about events as they happened, whether that was live TV, sports or news. Mirroring Twitter, Instagram and other services, Facebook in June introduced hashtags, the number signs that identify topics being discussed and that allowed users to search for them.

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