Facebook getting more Twitter-like with new Trending feature

If you haven’t seen it before, you’ll likely notice something new on your Facebook News Feed this week, as the world’s largest social network rolls out a feature it calls Trending – which displays prominently a list of topics that are currently popular conversation fodder on the site.

Yes, it’s a lot like what Twitter does with Trending Topics.

As we’ve reported before, Twitter’s success has led Facebook to conclude that it, too, should leverage its popularity as a place for people to discuss things that are happening in real time – right now – and not just things that they did this morning or yesterday.

Advertisers see value in being able to reach people with a timely message. And Facebook and Twitter are keeping that in mind as they increasingly go after advertising dollars that have previously been spent on traditional TV spots.

Facebook’s been experimenting with hashtags and trending topics since last summer, so this feature may not seem new to some users. But now it’s rolling out to everyone and it’s been assigned a fixed place – on desktops you’ll see it in the upper right of your screen. (Facebook says it’s still experimenting with different presentations for mobile screens.)

In announcing the new feature, Facebook engineering manager Chris Struhar said the list you see is “personalized, including topics based on things you’re interested in and what is trending across Facebook overall.”

One thing that’s a little different from Twitter: Facebook is also including a short sentence or caption below each topic heading, to give you a better understanding of what the conversation is about. For example, one item on my list this morning is “J.C. Penney,” followed by a caption that explains, “J.C. Penney closing 33 stores, laying off 2,000.”

And that underscores the fact that both Twitter and Facebook are increasingly serving as the places that deliver news, or at least links to news, for a lot of people. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has said he wants the News Feed to be more like a personalized hometown newspaper.  (Earlier this week, a report surfaced that Facebook is also gearing to launch a personalized news reader service.) This is another step in that direction.

(Image courtesy of Facebook)

Brandon Bailey Brandon Bailey (341 Posts)

Brandon Bailey covers Google, Facebook and Yahoo for the San Jose Mercury News, reporting on the business and culture of the Internet.