Recently, two new icons popped up in the Facebook app on iOS where the old chat icon used to be: a little shopfront and a rocket ship. The little shopfront is a quick link to Facebook Marketplace, and the rocket ship a link to Facebook’s Explore Feed.
Marketplace is pretty self explanatory—it’s Facebook’s attempt to take on the likes of Craigslist—but the Explore Feed caught my eye, so I did a little digging.
Instead of seeing posts from Pages you already like, in the Explore Feed you see ones that are popular with your friend group or are popular with other people who’s demographics you match (say, by both of you liking the TED Talks page). There’s probably dozens of other signals Facebook uses to decide what to show. They bill it as “Top posts for you from across Facebook.”
For the most part, when I scrolled through, Facebook showed me the kind of new things it also showed in my News Feed, just in a more structured way. The same pages have all appeared when my friends have interacted with them.
The biggest downside to the Explore Feed is that there’s a reason I haven’t already liked most of the Pages it’s suggesting: they don’t really interest me. There were one or two posts that took my fancy but, for the most part, unless I was desperate to kill time, I wouldn’t be checking out the Explore Feed again in a hurry.
It turned out the Explore Feed isn’t quite as new as I thought, either. It’s actually been in the mobile app for a while, but buried in a menu. For many users, it will actually still be there. I live in Ireland and we’re often used as a test ground for features before they roll out around the world—we were one of the first countries to get Facebook’s Post Reactions. If I’m seeing it in the iOS app though, everyone else will probably start seeing it in few months.
If you don’t already see the Explore Feed and want to check it out, tap the menu icon and then select Explore Find. You’ll find it under Favorites on Android and Explore on iOS.
So, what’s the whole point of the Explore Feed? As near as I can guess, it’s Facebook’s attempt to take on the likes of Reddit and increase the time people spend on Facebook. The more time you spend on the app, the more ads you see, the more money Facebook makes. It’s why they’ve put so much work into their News Feed algorithm. Whether it actually takes off or just ends up another failed Facebook feature remains to be seen.