Following on from the introduction of hashtags to the site in June, Facebook is experimenting with a new feature, similar toTwitter’s ‘what’s trending’, which lists, alongside the News Feed, popular topics being discussed on the site in real-time.
The Wall Street Journal was the first publication to report the development, releasing the screenshot above, as well as an official comment from a Facebook spokesperson, who said that the social media giant would release further details if the feature was released globally:
We are running a small test of a unit on News Feed. Right now it’s only available to a small percentage of US users and it is still in the early stages of development.
Facebook has made no attempt to disguise the fact that they are trying to break into the real-time conversation racket, a racket currently wielded almost exclusively by Twitter. Twitter has had a trending box for a while, allowing users to find and follow the most popular conversations in their area, as well as discover what is being discussed around the world.
Twitter was also the first site to introduce hastags, a feature only recently adopted by main rivals Facebook and Google+. Hashtags, if you don’t know, allow users to tag their posts and tweets so that they become part of a specific conversation. Facebook also tested a trending section on its mobile website earlier in the year.
If Facebook’s new features manage to promote real-time conversation on the site, users will spend more time looking through their News Feeds in order to follow, and become part of, the chatter. The more time users spend in the News Feed, the more adverts they will see. Driving real-time conversation on the site, then, could greatly increase Facebook’s ad revenue.
The ‘Twittersphere’, the nickname giving to the world inhabited by all the threads of real-time conversation bouncing around the microblogging site, could soon have a rival: The ‘Effbeesphere’, perhaps?
What do you think of Facebook’s trending feature? Is it a big threat to Twitter?