You probably noticed it on your Facebook app. Or not. The mysterious rocket ship icon can only be seen by select users, so, don’t panic if Jennifer in class has a rocket ship and you don’t.
The select users took to Twitter to question what exactly is going on and the company has been keeping mum since the phenomena as early as January this year.
Months into the ordeal and questions are finally getting answered. Facebook is experimenting with an algorithm-based news feed meaning suggestions of content that users might like, based on content they’ve already Liked. This feature, which reminds us a lot of Twitter’s newsfeed, is also based on your interests and activities on the platform.
The rocket ship news feature is being rolled out tentatively
Adam Mosseri, Facebook’s VP of product, helped shed some light on this new feature in his interview with Variety. “People can learn about new stories from sources they are not connected to,” Mosseri said of the tab, which he characterized as keeping with the overall mission of News Feed: “to connect people with the stories that matter to them.”
Mosseri said that this content was based on “educated guesses” that come from a ton of data that are being studied. “We look at little things, like when you watch a video, do you change it to full screen, do you turn up the volume?” he said. “We try to look for patterns.”
According to him, the rocket ship was an original concept of one of their Irish engineers, and that the icon has no specific meaning. It is, on the other hand, a representation of Facebook’s quick experimentations of various features on the platform.
“We believe deeply in experimenting and failing fast, and then learning from those mistakes and not repeating them,” Mosseri said. “I try to make sure my teams have the leeway to try a lot of things, to be really smart and skeptical and curious. When things don’t work, we call a spade a spade and when they do, we nurture them, grow them and give them more resources.”
Mosseri said he wasn’t sure whether the feature would actually take off (like its icon is supposed to), but that either way, it will surely become a learning curve for Facebook and their ever-adapting team.