Facebook changed its trending news section last week, and it's way less useful now

Facebook altered its Trending Topics section last week. Unfortunately, the new change makes this particular section of Facebook much less useful than it used to be.

Here’s how the two version of Trending Topics compare:

In the old version, you’d actually see a brief description of why that particular news is trending. In the new version, you don’t see why that news is trending — you can only see how many people are talking about that subject.

Frankly, telling me how many people are talking about any given topic is meaningless. Sure, in context you could compare the topics — “17,000 people are talking about Anthony Weiner, but 140,000 people are talking about Rob Lowe” — but these details aren’t helpful in deciding which topic to click on, because they offer no actual details about the topics themselves.

Facebook trending topicsFacebookThis is redundant. And an eyesore.

This leads to the other problem with this change: Sometimes, the topics you click on have nothing to do with the actual news behind those topics. For instance, Rob Lowe was trending on Monday morning, but the news had nothing to do with Rob Lowe. The news was actually about Pete Davidson, a cast member on ‘SNL,’ calling Ann Coulter a “racist c–t” during the Comedy Central roast of Rob Lowe. I noticed this several times over the past weekend, where the trending news on Facebook actually had nothing to do with what Facebook suggested was the topic, which is frustrating from a user’s standpoint.

Aesthetically speaking, the change also makes the Trending Topics box look worse than it did before. Now you have “people talking about this” below every single topic, which is an eyesore as much as it is redundant.

Perhaps these changes all have to do with Facebook reportedly firing its news team dedicated to writing short descriptions of each Trending Topic last Friday. Around 15 to 18 contractors reportedly lost their jobs; from now on, Facebook will apparently rely solely on its news algorithms, as well as the engineers to correct any flaws in those algorithms.

But hopefully Facebook finds a better way to inject descriptions back into Trending Topics. It’d make them much more useful, and more interesting, than they currently are.

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